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.

Flash Fiction Friday: Dream Man

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Dream Man
by Kelly F. Barr

 

Callie walked down a street in the city of Lancaster where she was vacationing. She’d never been there before but was enjoying all the city had to offer. Last night she’d attended a production of “Wuthering Heights” at the Fulton Opera House. She sat in the balcony and was completely caught up in the turbulent romance between Heathcliff and Catherine.

She turned the corner and came to an abrupt halt—her senses reeling—overcome by an incredible sense of déjà vu. Everything around her was familiar—the old brick buildings, the little patio of brick and sidewalk with café tables and chairs of dark brown with red umbrellas; the scent of spices and something fried in the air, the sunshine on her face, and the sounds of voices and a violin tickling her ears. Callie had been in this exact place so many times in her dreams but she had never thought it was a real place.

Then she saw him. At least she thought it was him. She couldn’t be sure from the back, but he had the strong, confident stance and jet black shoulder length curls. He wore the same sky blue suit coat with tan pants. When he turned, her breath caught in her throat as she looked into the same sapphire blue eyes and dark beard, just a bit more than a five o’clock shadow, on a strong jaw.

He smiled, revealing perfect dimples set deep in his cheeks. His eyes were locked with hers. “Is it really you?”

Could this really be happening or was she dreaming?

The man from her dreams took a couple long strides to stand before her. “I can’t believe you’re really here.” He reached his hand out to her.

Callie’s head spun and her knees turned to rubber. As she started to crumple, his arm slipped around her back. He held her up and guided her to the nearest café table where he deposited her in a chair before seating himself in one across from her.

Are you alright?”

Y…y…yes, I … think so. Do you know me?” She fanned herself with one hand, hoping some air would stop her head from whirling.

Only in my dreams … until this moment. I always hoped but couldn’t be sure we’d ever really meet. My name’s Chase Bryant, and you are?”

Callie … Callie Holcomb. What do you mean you only know me from your dreams?”

I’ve had a recurring dream that I meet you in this very spot.”

Callie closed her eyes and massaged her temples. “This can’t be happening.”

Are you sure you’re alright. Would you like me to get you something cold to drink?”

She opened her eyes and Chase was still sitting across from her, his sapphire blue eyes looking at her with concern. “It’s just … things like this don’t happen in real life … do they? I mean, I’ve had that same recurring dream, but…”

I know. It seems crazy, but here we are … and, I take it, you’re not married?” He raised an eyebrow.

She shook her head. “You?”

No, I’ve been waiting for you.”

Woa, just because we’ve had the same dream and now we’re here and we’re both single, doesn’t mean I’m jumping into any marriage.”

Chase chuckled. “Of course not. I just meant, I’ve suspected the dream would come true. I can’t explain why—call it premonition or gut instinct or a prophetic dream … I don’t know. I just knew that some day we would meet, and here we are. Now we can spend some time getting to know one another … uh, unless you’re already dating someone?”

His eyes searched hers and a strong desire to quell his doubts caused her to blurt out, “No, I’m not dating anyone. And … maybe we could start by getting something for lunch? I’m quite famished.”

Of course. Would you like a café experience, fine dining, or taking a tour through Central Market and making a selection which we can enjoy out here at this table?”

Well, since I’m not from around here, maybe you could make a recommendation. However, I’d just as soon leave fine dining for a dinner experience.”

His face became serious. “You’re not from around here?”

She shook her head. “I’m vacationing here. I arrived day before yesterday and will be here the rest of this week and next.”

I see.” His gaze moved from her face to his hands on the table.

Is something wrong?”

He raised his eyes to hers again. “Well that explains why it took so long for us to meet, but I’m not willing to meet you, start to get to know, then say goodbye.”

A couple moments of silence passed between them, then Chase rose from his chair, clasped Callie’s hand in his, tugged her to her feet, and offered her another smile. “Well, that’s not waste time worrying about that right now. Let’s go find lunch in the market. It’s something every tourist must experience.”

Callie spent the rest of the day with Chase, who played the role of personal tour guide. They talked and laughed together and found they had quite a bit in common.

As the sun began to sink in the sky, Chase escorted her back to her hotel. He walked her into the lobby, then stood facing her. “Go and prepare for a fine dining experience. I’ll return in exactly one hour to collect you for the evening.” His dimpled smile made her heart skip a beat.

As you wish.” She gave a theatrical curtsy and the two parted.

One hour later, Chase returned and the two of them walked a couple blocks then entered The Imperial Restaurant where they enjoyed a delicious meal and great conversation. After dinner, Chase escorted her to a sleek, blue Lincoln Town Car. He opened the door for her and closed it when she was comfortably seated. He drove to a large park, retrieved two lawn chairs from the trunk, and led her to a large open lawn facing an amphitheater. He set up the chairs and they sat down. He explained that during the summer, the amphitheater was used for free concerts. A few minutes later, Callie enjoyed listening to Latin music and dancing with Chase in a nearby area of open lawn.

When the last song faded, they returned to his car and Chase drove her to back to the hotel. This time he escorted her to the door of her room, where he faced her, holding her hands in his. “I had an amazing day. Sadly, I have to work tomorrow, but I’d like you to meet me for lunch, and I want to spend the evening with you as well.”

I’d like that.” She smiled up at him.

He took a step closer, lowered his head, and place his lips on hers. The kiss began soft and light, but deepened quickly. When it ended, Callie was breathless.

Chase remained close to her, looking into her eyes. “I feel like I’ve known you all my life … like we were made for each other. I believe I love you.”

When Callie opened her mouth to speak, Chase put a finger to her lips. “Don’t say anything. You don’t have to respond. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He gave her a light kiss, then turned and moved down the hall to the elevator.

Callie entered her hotel room, leaned her back against the door, and closed her eyes reliving the past few minutes in her mind. Could he really love her? Could she really love him so soon? It did feel as though they’d known each other a long time. They’d obviously met in their dreams over and over again. Other women had said they had found their “dream man”, but for Callie … that statement was really true.

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Photo by Heather Barnes on Unsplash

Honey Lavender
by Kelly F. Barr

Elaina sat at a small corner table in the ice cream parlor eating her honey lavender ice cream.

“A pink shirt isn’t too bad, but I wouldn’t be wearing pink shoes to go with my pink shirt.” A young man’s voice drifted to her from a nearby table.

“Well, the way he’s showering affection on that woman leaves no question as to his masculinity.” A young woman’s voice responded, drawing Elaina’s attention to the line of customers at the counter. As she scanned the line of customers, her eyes landed on a tall, muscular, good-looking man with caramel colored skin who had his arms around a short woman with ash blond hair. He bent to place a kiss on the top of her head, but the woman paid no attention to him.

Elaina couldn’t take her eyes off the pair. How could that woman ignore the gentle, loving attention that handsome man was showering on her? Elaina’s gaze remained upon them until they received their ice cream and moved out of her line of sight.

Elaina sighed, her thoughts turning to her desire to find someone who would pay her such sweet attention. She certainly wouldn’t be so apathetic toward a man like that. Instead, she’d be basking in his attention and showing her appreciation by giving him her full attention.

She finished her ice cream, tossed the napkins in the trash and walked toward the door. As she neared the exit, her gaze swept toward tables to her right, and there, at a small table for two, sat the couple she’d been watching in the ice cream line. The woman was looking at her cell phone while the caramel skinned man ate his ice cream. His eyes met Elaina’s and she  averted her gaze and stepped through the doorway to the outside.

* * * *

The following week, Elaina turned a corner in the bookstore and collided with a tall, muscular man. She gasped and raised her eyes to the man’s face. “I’m so sorry.”

“It was completely my fault. I wasn’t watching where I was going.” A smooth as velvet voice spoke and dark brown eyes met hers. It was him–the same man she’d seen with that woman at the ice cream parlor. Then he turned the corner and was gone.

Elaina picked up the latest book by J.P. Robinson and headed for the checkout line. As she approached the line, the same man stepped from an aisle and moved in front of her. She looked around but didn’t see the short woman, who’d been with him at the ice cream parlor, anywhere. She stood staring at the cover of the book she planned to purchase.

“I see you’ve picked up In the Midst of the Flames. Have you read In the Shadow of Your Wings?” The smooth as velvet voice addressed her.

She looked into his dark brown eyes. “Yes. It kept me turning pages from the beginning to the end, and I stayed up quite late one night to finish it.”

“Then I’m sure you’ll enjoy In the Midst of the Flames. I just finished reading that one two nights ago. That’s why I’m here. I needed something else to read.” He held up a copy of Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Then stepped to the cashiers’ desk to make his purchase.

* * * * *

Three days later Elaina took a walk in the park, then sat on a bench to watch the children playing on the playground, when a shadow fell across her face.

“Mind if I sit here?”

Elaina looked up into the caramel colored face and dark brown eyes of the same man. He held out a small dish of ice cream. “Honey lavender, right?”

Elaina’s lower jaw dropped but she realized it in a fraction of a second and asked, “How did you know that?” She took the dish from him with one hand and motioned for him to have a seat on the bench with the other.

“I saw you watching me at the ice cream parlor about a week and a half ago and, even though it was at a distance, I thought it looked like you were enjoying a cone of honey lavender ice cream. Today is a bit warm so I thought you might prefer it in a dish.” He smiled and his eyes sparkled as he lifted a spoonful of honey lavender ice cream from his own dish.

“I see. Well, thank you.” She made a quick scan of the area.

“She’s not here. As a matter of fact, she’s not a part of my life anymore.”

A mild flush heated Elaina’s face as she realized he had noticed her looking for the woman who had been with him at the ice cream parlor. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. Your expression, when you spotted us at the table on your way out of the parlor that evening, opened my eyes. I saw compassion in your eyes when our eyes met and realized you understood there was a problem between Jill and me. That made me realize something needed to change.” He slipped another spoonful of ice cream into his mouth and swallowed. “I tried talking to Jill about it after you walked out, but she was too busy on her phone to pay attention. That night was the last time I saw her. She never even texted me when I didn’t call to see her again.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Again, don’t be. I’m glad I came to my senses before my relationship with Jill got too serious.” He ate a couple more spoonfuls of ice cream. “So what about you? Every time I see you, you’re alone.”

She raised her last spoonful of ice cream to her mouth and took her time savoring it as she considered her words. “I guess I just haven’t met the right guy yet.”

He held her gaze for several moments. “Would you be willing to give me a chance?”

“Yes.”

Flash Fiction Friday: The Friendship Contract Part 2

Brett knew from the moment Isabel ran away like a frightened kitten that she was the one for him.

Her fearful dark chocolate eyes pricked his heart. She’d obviously been hurt. He longed to comfort her and promise no one would ever hurt her again.

He would have to move slow to prove that he could be trusted—that he wouldn’t hurt her like those before him. That was fine with him. It would give them time to really get to know one another without the emotional complications.

He stood in Griffin Park by the water fountain watching for her.

There – the girl with chestnut hair pulled back into a pony tail, eyes darting around, hands sunk deep in her jacket pockets, shoulders raised giving her the appearance of a turtle cautiously peeking from its shell.

Her eyes connected with his. He smiled and waved.

When she was near, he took two steps and fell into stride next to her. “Good afternoon Isabel.” He pulled a tri-folded sheet of paper from his pocket and handed it to her.

She looked into his eyes, then took the paper, unfolded it and read it. Then her eyes met his again. “You really did it.”

“Of course I did. You said you wanted a contract … and now you have one.”

“Do you have a pen?”

He quirked an eyebrow at her.

“I need to add my signature. Do you have your copy with you? We should each have a copy with both our signatures … to make it official.”

“Of course.” He stifled a smile. He pulled another tri-folded sheet from his pocket, along with a pen. Things were off to a good start. He had predicted her need to make the contract “official”.

They stopped by a picnic table and she added her signature to her copy as well as to his. “You need to sign your own copy.” She looked at him, lips in a pinched line, as she handed his copy back to him.

He took the sheet and added his signature above hers, then refolded it and placed it, and the pen, back into his pocket.

They walked along the river that ran next to Griffin Park. Isabel kept her hands in her pockets. Brett’s fingers tingled with the desire to hold her hand in his. Remember, go slow. Don’t frighten her away.

They stopped to watch a couple sailboats float by on the breeze. “Have you ever been sailing, Isabel?”

She shook her head. “I … I can’t swim.”

He barely heard the words as she mumbled with her head down.

“You don’t have to know how to swim to go sailing.”

Her head whipped up and she stared at him through wide eyes.

“You can wear a life jacket. I wouldn’t let you fall overboard.”

Isabel shook her head, and they continued to walk.

They stopped at the park concession stand. Isabel ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and a coke, and promptly pulled money from her pocket to pay for her food.

Brett forced himself not to frown, then ordered his own cheeseburger, fries, and coke, and paid for his order.

They took their food and drinks to a picnic bench and sat down.

“Isabel, do you work?”

She finished chewing her bite of cheeseburger and swallowed before answering. “Yes, I am a freelance writer.”

“So you work from your home?”

She nodded. “Do you work?” Her eyes met his as she waited for his answer.

“Yes, I am an artist, and I teach art classes in my studio.”

He watched a spark light her eyes, but just as quickly as it came, it disappeared. “Do you like art?”

She nodded but did not meet his gaze.

“Would you like to see my studio?” He held his breath as he awaited her answer.

“Maybe someday.”

He released his breath, a bit deflated. Oh well, at least it hadn’t been a “no”.

When they finished their lunch, they continued their walk around the park. Upon returning to the fountain, Isabel said, “I need to get home.”

“Isabel, I enjoyed our time together today. I hope you did too. Should we meet at Mario’s Pizza Palace next week?”

She looked up at him and he’d have sworn the corners of her lips tipped up just a bit. “Yes.”

Then she turned and walked away.

He watched her until he couldn’t see her anymore, but she never looked back at him.

* * * * *

As weeks passed and turned into months, Brett’s heart longed for the day when Isabel would finally feel secure in their relationship. When she would truly know and understand that he wouldn’t hurt her—that she could trust him.

Through the months, she did start to open up. But they were baby steps.

His heart warmed and a smile stretched his lips as he remembered the first time she’d smiled at him. Then the first time he’d heard her laugh out loud.

It was their fourth visit to Mario’s and he wanted to make her smile again. “I read your texts the moment you send them to me, and the other day I received one of your texts. I was reading it, and I walked into a pole.”

Her laughter had bubbled forth like water from a spring and he loved the sound of it.

* * * * *

Today—the one year anniversary of the day they signed their “friendship contract”–they plan to have dinner at Mario’s Pizza Palace.

Brett’s gut was in knots. One year was a milestone and Isabel had opened up to him quite a bit. Tonight he’d be picking her up and they would drive together in his car. They’d done this about half a dozen times now. He’d held her hand each time they walked through the park for the past four months, but what did it mean to her?

His nerves were on edge the moment she got in the car. She chattered about her work on the way to Mario’s, but he only half listened. He parked the car and they walked into Mario’s hand-in-hand, his heart thumping like it wanted to break out of his chest.

They took a seat in a booth near the back of the restaurant. “So, what are we having tonight?”

She looked at him with a gleam in her eyes he’d never seen before. “How about spaghetti?” She giggled.

He grinned. “Are you serious?”

“No, but I’ll never forget the look on your face as I caught you slurping a noodle the last time.”

He chuckled. “That was the first time I ever heard you laugh.”

Isabel reached her hand across the table and touched his. “You know, you really have helped me during this past year.”

“I’m glad.” He gave her fingers a gentle squeeze.

“You know, I’ve been thinking about our relationship and our contract.”

He raised his eyebrows but didn’t say anything. He held his breath to hear what she would say next.

“I think it’s time for a change.”

Brett sat up, leaning harder on the table, every nerve and muscle in his body tensed.

Isabel slipped a hand beneath the table, reached into the back pocket of her jeans and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. She opened it and showed him her copy of their “friendship agreement”. She folded it again as her eyes held his gaze. Then she ripped the paper in half and in half again and again, until it was just a pile of small pieces on the table between them.

Brett’s heart pounded and his palms sweated, but his eyes were locked with hers.

“Brett, I think it’s time this relationship moved to the next step—something more than friendship.”

The breath he’d been holding burst from his mouth and he breathed normally again. “Are you sure?”

“As long as we can continue to take it one step at a time.”

Brett reached and brushed a thumb across her cheek. She clasped his hand and kissed his palm, and his heart leapt for joy. It would take a little more time, but one day he would make Isabel his wife.