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: “Answered Prayers”

a-l-l-e-f-v-i-n-i-c-i-u-s-298018-unsplash (1)Photo by A L L E F . V I N I C I U S Δ on Unsplash

 

Christy stood, back pressed against the wall, hoping no one would notice her, just like during the slow dances back in high school—a long time ago—where she always filled the role of wallflower.

“Hello, my name is Roman. Would you be my dance partner?”

Christy looked up into emerald green eyes. A tall man, broad-shouldered with waves of chocolate brown hair spilling onto his collar, smiled at her.

He extended his hand toward Christy. She hesitated, then placed her hand in his. A jolt of electricity shot through her fingertips. Had he felt it too?

After a half-hour practicing three swing dances, Roman, his hand on the middle of Christy’s back, led her to the refreshment table. He poured two cups of punch and handed one to her.

Christy took a long swallow in an attempt to relieve the dryness gripping her throat. She focused on the cup in her hands.

“You did very well with the lessons. Try to relax and have fun.”

Her arms pimpled as his smooth voice rolled over her. She offered a small smile, still suspicious of his interest in her. You know you’d be really pretty if you’d just lose some weight. Words from her past still haunted her.

They finished their punch, and Roman’s green eyes bored into her brown ones. “You have me at a disadvantage.”

“What do you mean?” She chewed a corner of her lower lip.

“You know my name but still haven’t told me yours.” He leaned closer and whispered. “And if you continue to chew that lip, I may be tempted to taste your lips for myself.”

Christy’s lower jaw dropped.

Music began and Roman placed a hand on the middle of her back once again. He lowered his head and spoke softly in her ear. “Shall we dance?”

Her heart thumped in her chest. Did he find her attractive or was he only flirting? As they approached the dance floor, she looked up at him. “My name is Christy.”

He winked at her, and they began to dance.

With each turn around the floor, Christy relaxed a little more, and by the finalnumber, Roman had narrowed the space between them until they were mere inches apart.

When the music ended, Roman clasped her hand. “It’s still early. May I take you for coffee or ice cream?”

“The evening has been delightful, but I think I should go home.”

Disappointment evident in his eyes, he held fast to her hand. “May I see you tomorrow?”

“Why are you so interested in me?” She searched his eyes.

He ran his thumb over the back of her hand. “What is it that you think should dispel my interest?”

She lowered her head. “I … I’m fat.”

“Oh sweet Christy.” He placed a finger under her chin and pulled her head up to meet his gaze. “Don’t you know beauty is in the eye of the beholder? And I see before me a beautiful woman. You are a delightful armful, and I prefer your soft curves to those of less stature.”

In an instant, he drew her into his embrace and placed his lips on hers, offering a brief tender kiss.

As the kiss ended, Christy could barely breathe. Did she dare take a chance on falling in love with this man? Her head said “no”, but her heart reached for his.

His arms still encircling her, his face remained close to hers. “You sure I can’t take you for coffee or something?”

“I guess it would be okay, for a little while.” She took a step back trying to catch her breath.

They exited the dance studio and the humidity of the summer evening pressed in on them.

“Seems like a good evening for ice cream. What do you think?” Roman smiled down at her.

She nodded.

“There’s a local ice cream shop just down the street. Shall we walk?” He still held her hand in his.

“Okay.”

They talked as they ate their scoops. Roman made Christy laugh, and she found him quite charming. Her head sent warnings not to let her guard down, but she had prayed for God to send her a special man for so long. As they walked back to the dance studio parking lot, Christy whispered a silent prayer and took a deep breath. “Roman, do you believe in God?”

“Yes, I most certainly do.”

“You sound very sure of yourself.” They reached his car, and she looked up at him.

“That’s because God has answered many of my prayers over the years, and you, my dear Christy, are the most recent one.”

Christy’s heart leaped! “And I believe you are an answer to my long-time prayer. I didn’t know why I came to this swing dance tonight … until now.”

The Narrow Road (A Poem)

The Narrow Road

by Kelly F. Barr

 

As I travel through this life

Facing troubles and strife;

I come to a fork in the road

Adjust my backpack, shifting its load.

 

To my left, the road is wide

And many are traveling there.

There’s a narrow footpath on the other side;

One or two slowly walk it with care.

 

Antics and raucous laughter

From the wide road echo.

A gentle push aids the first, from the one after,

On the narrow road, as their pace slows.

 

“Which road will you choose?”

Speaks a still, small voice.

“On which is there less to lose?”

I ask and wait, poised.

 

“Destruction awaits at the end of the wide road.

The narrow road leads to life.”

“The journey’s much harder on the narrow,” I crow.

“Yes, and you may choose — eternal strife or eternal life.”

 

From the wide road, friends’ voices call to me.

I stand up straight, breathe deep, and wipe my brow.

No friends on the narrow road do I see.

Decision made: Eternal Life — more valuable than the ease of the journey.