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.”

Flash Fiction Friday: Love and Writing

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Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

 

Julie rushed through the library clasping her folder to her chest, tears stinging the backs of her eyes. As she burst out the library doors, she gulped the warm fresh air, relieved to be rid of the feeling of suffocation. She fast-walked toward home, longing for the safety and solitude of her bedroom.

As she walked, the dam broke, and tears gushed forth. Why are people so mean? Why are they so critical and judgmental? Hadn’t anyone ever taught them that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”—words Grandma Rose had drilled into her head?

Julie’s family’s house came into view, and Toby Jefferson, her best friend for the past three years, sat on the top step of the large front porch. She slowed her pace and scrubbed her tears away with one hand, while retaining her tight grip on her folder. She hoped her eyes didn’t look too red and puffy.

Julie turned onto the gray stone walkway leading to her house. Her eyes met Toby’s, and he grinned. She offered a small smile.

She stopped before him, and he patted the porch floor next to him. “Have a seat.”

When Julie was seated, Toby turned to look at her. “So, how’d it go? What did they say?”

One look into his kind, encouraging, chocolate brown eyes and she came undone. Sobs shook her slight frame.

Toby wrapped an arm around her and stroked her long black hair. He just held her until her sobs subsided, then she sat up, looked at him through watery blue eyes, and sniffed. “Oh Toby, I don’t think I can do this. Apparently my writing isn’t any good. They hated it—said the characters aren’t developed enough for them to like them, let alone care about them. They said I have no idea how to write a story people will want to read, and I shouldn’t waste my time.” Another tear spilled from her eye.

Toby, one arm still around her, rubbed her shoulder. “Didn’t they offer suggestions on how to do the things they think are missing?”

Julie shook her head and sighed. “Don’t ever suggest another writers’ group to me again. The people in those groups are mean and cruel. First, it was the two groups you suggested online that said I shouldn’t write again until I take a college creative writing class, and now this. Maybe I’m not really cut out to be a writer after all.” She laid her head on Toby’s shoulder and leaned into him.

May I see the piece you shared?” Toby spoke into her hair.

Julie sat up and looked at him, tears, once again, pooling in her eyes. She shook her head and wrapped both arms around the folder.

Come on, Jules. You’ve let me read your stuff before. You know I’d never be like those other people.” He gently brushed a few strands of hair from her face.

She lowered her gaze. “I’m sorry. I can’t. Not today.” She rose to her feet. “I’m going to my room. I’ll talk to you later.” She turned toward the house.

Toby got to his feet. “Jules…”

His pet name for her always made her breath catch in her throat. She wondered if he knew, that six months ago when he became the champion for her writing, she’d fallen in love with him. She turned to look at him.

Aw, never mind. I’ll talk to you later.” He turned and walked down the porch steps.

The next day, Toby met Julie at her locker at lunchtime like he did everyday. She greeted him with a large smile.

He quirked an eyebrow at her. “Didn’t expect to see such a bright smile on your face.”

Oh Toby, you’ll never guess what’s happened!”

Well, don’t hold me in suspense … tell me.”

Do you remember I told you, Miss Wilson, my English teacher convinced me to enter one of my short stories in a contest a few months ago?”

Toby nodded.

Well, today she informed the whole class that my story won first place!”

Toby wrapped her in a hug, lifted her from the floor, and spun her around. Then he set her down and looked into her eyes. “That’s great, Jules! One day you’ll have a bestseller.”

Heat crept into her cheeks, as he still had his arms around her, and other students stared. She nodded, looking up at him, his face so near to hers. “Miss Wilson also said she’s part of a very good writers’ group, and she wants me to go to the next meeting with her … this Saturday.” She bit her lower lip.

Are you going?”

She nodded.

Toby grinned and they walked to the lunchroom, his arm around her lower back.

Flash Fiction Friday: “Love Can Wait”

tobias-tullius-1410378-unsplashPhoto by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

 

Clara listened for noises in the house—silence. She tiptoed to her bedroom door, opened it a crack, and placed her ear to the crack. The only sound came from her parents’ bedroom—the sound of her father’s snoring. Now was the time to make her move.

She gathered the sheets she had tied together and took them to her bedroom window. She opened the window. She tied one end of the sheets to her bedpost, yanking on it to be sure it was secure. She slid the bed closer to the window, flinching at the scraping noise it made on the hardwood floor. She crept to the door and listened. Her father was still snoring. She padded back to the window and tossed the sheets out, then leaned out to be sure they reached the ground—just about three feet shy. No problem, she could make that jump without injury.

Clara sat on the windowsill, her legs outside. She managed to turn over so that her stomach rested on the windowsill, and she clasped sheet between her feet as well as in her hands. She began her descent from one knot to the next.

Halfway down, a noise to her left caught her attention. She turned toward the sound and made eye contact with Gilpin, the tailor’s son. He was climbing from a window in the house next door. Why was Gilpin climbing out a window? She didn’t have time to worry about that now. She needed to be as far away as possible before her parents discovered her missing in the morning.

Clara reached the end of her sheet rope and dropped to the ground below. She turned and ran but soon heard someone behind her.

“Clara! Clara, wait!”

She stopped, turned to face Gilpin, who wasn’t an ugly young man, but she wouldn’t call him handsome either. His dark brown, almost black eyes, were intense and held her eyes captive whenever he looked at her.

“Clara, where are you going?”

“I’m running away, if you must know. My father is forcing me to marry tomorrow, I know not whom, and I refuse to marry a stranger.” She raised her chin. “And what are you doing climbing from a window in the middle of the night?”

Gilpin’s brow wrinkled, and he tapped a finger on his chin, then he shook his head. “No, it couldn’t be … could it?”

“Gilpin, really, what are you mumbling about? I don’t have time to waste.” Clara glared at him.

“I am running away because I, too, am to marry tomorrow to I know not whom.” He raised an eyebrow at her. “You don’t suppose…”

Clara’s lower jaw went slack.

“Clara, you don’t suppose our fathers have in mind that you and I are to marry tomorrow, do you?”

“Don’t be ridiculous! If that was their plan, why wouldn’t they have told either of us? We’ve known each other for years! Do you think they thought we would refuse?” Clara’s eyes searched Gilpin’s face. Would she refuse if she were to marry Gilpin?

“What if your father had told you he expects you to marry me tomorrow? Would you still be running away?”

Would she be running away? Surely she knew Gilpin, but she certainly had no romantic aspirations toward him. His eyes bored into hers, waiting for her answer.

“What about you? Would you be running away if you knew you were supposed to marry me tomorrow?” She challenged him.

He ran the backs of his fingers down the side of her face. “Clara, you know I’ve been in love with you for years … but you’ve never shown any special fondness for me. I would consider it an honor to marry you … if I were a knight. That is why I am running off. I am going to Sir Tobyn’s castle to beg him to train me so that I may be worthy to marry a lady like you.”

“Hmph! Lady? I am a peasant, same as you!”

“Clara, answer the question—would you be running away if you were to marry me tomorrow?”

She broke eye contact. “I don’t know.” She met his eyes again. “We both aspire to rise above our positions in life.”

Gilpin kissed her. “May we both rise and one day meet again!” He ran toward Sir Tobyn’s castle.

Clara’s fingers brushed her lips. Gilpin’s kiss had been sweet. But neither he nor she were ready to marry and continue in a life of drudgery like the one they had grown up in. They would each go their own way in hopes of becoming more. Were they destined to meet again, to marry as a knight and a lady? With the memory of Gilpin’s kiss so fresh on her lips, she almost hoped so.

Flash Fiction Friday: “Through the Love of Books”

Photo by Aung-Soe-Min on Unsplash

 

Janet perused the book spines on the library shelves. She searched for a suspense novel she hadn’t yet read.

Someone entered the aisle from the opposite end. From the corner of her eye, Janet  examined the tall young man. His snug-fitting green t-shirt displayed his sculpted chest muscles as his biceps bulged beneath the short sleeves. His sandy-brown hair waved over the top of his head but was clipped close around his ears. Several waves rested on the top of his crew collar.

Janet turned her attention back to the books.

A few minutes later, she reached for a suspense novel on the shelf above her head. Another set of fingers touched her own, sending a jolt of electricity through her. She looked up into sapphire blue eyes. “Oh, excuse me.”

A dimpled smile spread across the young man’s lips. “Are you a Dean Koontz fan too?”

“I’ve read just about everything he’s written. His books are real nail-biters, but I love most suspense novels.” Heat crept into her cheeks at their close proximity.

He pulled down the book, they had both reached for, and handed it to her. “Have you read this one?”

She studied read the first paragraph on the back cover. “No.”

“Then you check it out first. I’ll wait until you finish it.” His eyes locked on hers. “After we’ve both read it, maybe we can get together and discuss it?”

Janet smiled. “That sounds like fun. I should be able to finish it within a week.”

He took a step back but kept his eyes on hers. “Maybe we could discuss other suspense novels we’ve read over coffee?”

“I suppose we could do that, but I’m not a coffee drinker. When were you thinking?”

He grinned, his dimples like too deep finger indentations in his cheeks. “How about as soon as we finish here?”

She nodded and moved toward the check-out desk.

The young man stepped up behind her in line. He held a suspense novel by Lisa Scottoline.

After checking out their books, they walked toward the exit together. “By the way, my name’s Matthew Stevens. You can call me Matt.”

“I’m Janet Brady.”

“Well, Janet Brady, it’s a pleasure to meet you. There’s a coffee shop around the corner. Shall we walk?”

She nodded.

They entered the coffee shop, and Matt turned toward her. “So, what is your drink of choice?”

“A chai latte topped with whipped cream.”

“Coming right up. Why don’t you grab us a table and I’ll get our drinks?”

Janet found a table for two by the window. She sat down, placed her hands in her lap, and, using thumb and forefinger of one hand, pinched her other arm just above the wrist. She flinched. No, she wasn’t dreaming.

Matt joined her, and they discussed their favorite suspense novels while enjoying their beverages. When their cups were empty, Matt looked at her for a few minutes. “Janet, I know we just met, but are you available to go out for dinner this evening? I’d like to talk with you about more substantial things.”

When her eyes grew wide, Matt hit his forehead with the heel of his palm. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to sound quite like that.” This made them both laugh. “It’s just … I think you’re beautiful, and I’d like to get to know more about you.”

Janet relaxed. “Yes, I’m available for dinner.”

They agreed on a time and place to meet.

After placing their orders, Matt said, “I work in construction. What do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

Matt leaned forward. “Really? I’d like to read something you’ve written.”

The waiter set their food before them.

“Janet, what do you like to do for fun?”

“I like to take walks, go dancing, go to the movies or the theater.”

“Do walks include hikes in the woods?” Matt raised an eyebrow.

“Of course.”

Dinner ended and Janet shared her address and phone number with Matt and agreed to see him again soon.

The next day, Janet couldn’t focus on writing. She couldn’t stop thinking about Matt. She took a break, and her doorbell rang. The postman handed a box to her. She placed it on the table and opened it. A hardcover copy of The Watchers, the book she and Matt had agreed was their favorite Dean Koontz novel lay open with several pages from either side curled inward and tucked into the seam, forming a heart. A note in the box read: I had a wonderful time last night. I look forward to spending more time with you. You’ve already captured my heart. Matt

She clasped the note to her chest. Her heart skipped a beat at the thought of him. She smiled, hoping Matt would prove to be her lifelong love.