Flash Fiction Friday: A Heart’s Longing Fulfilled

brooke-winters-4-Frj4OcWZ8-unsplashPhoto by Brooke Winters on Unsplash

I stood by my car in my parents’ driveway. I’d just returned from my final year at college. That’s when I saw her. A gorgeous blonde walking toward me on the sidewalk. She turned to follow the path to the house next door. I watched as she opened the door and walked in without pausing or ringing the doorbell.

Mom hadn’t said anything about the Stewarts moving. I searched my memory. The Stewarts had had a daughter … Audrey, Abigail, … Allison, that’s what it was, Allison. But she was a gangly, freckle-faced girl with braces last I’d seen her. That blonde couldn’t be Allison.

I grabbed my suitcase and backpack and strode into the house. “Hey everyone, I’m home!”

Mom came from the kitchen, Dad from the living room, and my younger brother, Tim, bounded down the stairs. I got hugs from everyone and after taking my bags to my room upstairs, Tim helped me bring the rest of the stuff from the car.

“So, little brother, I come home and you’ll soon be leaving for college. You got some big dreams?”

Tim smiled. “Doesn’t everyone have big dreams? I’m headed to the same college you just came from, but I’ll be studying computer technology. I plan to create the best social media ever.”

“Social media? Don’t we have enough of that?” I poked him in the side with my elbow.

“Not like what I’ll create. You just wait and see.”

“Will your social media be able to hook me up with the gorgeous blonde I saw walk into the house next door?”

Tim’s gaze dropped to his feet. “You won’t need any help.”

“Whoa, did I say something wrong? Who is that girl?”

“That’s Allison Stewart, don’t you remember her? And, no you didn’t say anything wrong.” Every word came out monotone.

“That’s really Allison? How did that transformation happen? Whoa, is she your girl?”

“Huh, I wish! She doesn’t have the time of day for me, and yeah, she grew up and the freckles disappeared. The braces came off to reveal a dazzling smile, and she filled out well, didn’t she?”

I grinned and tousled his hair. “Okay, Tim, I’ll stay out of your way. I can see you’re interested in her.”

“That doesn’t matter.”

“Does she have a boyfriend?”

“Not right now. She doesn’t keep a boyfriend long.” Tim looked at me but didn’t say more.

I got settled in my room and enjoyed Mom’s cooking and dinner with the family. It felt good to be home again but I didn’t plan to stay long. With the job I had lined up, I should be able to move out of here for good after the holidays. Maybe not out of the area, just out of my parents’ house.

The following Friday I rang the Stewart’s doorbell. Mrs. Stewart answered.

“Is Allison here?”

“No, she isn’t. She should be back in about an hour. Is there something I can do for you?”

“No. I’m Chad Waters from next door, just returned from college. I saw Allison the day I arrived, and thought I’d stop by and say hi.”

Mrs. Stewart looked me up and down, then closed the door. Had I offended her somehow?

As the time drew nearer for Allison’s return, I went over and sat down in their driveway in front of her dad’s Range Rover. I bet no guy had ever waited for her like this before.

I didn’t have to wait long. I saw Allison coming down the sidewalk, wearing a pair of jeans and an orange t-shirt, her hair, pulled into a ponytail. I could tell the moment she spotted me. Her pace slowed and before getting too close, she called out, “Who are you and what are you doing sitting in our driveway?”

I stood up and smiled at her. “Allison, it’s me, Chad, from next door. I thought I’d see how you’re doing and maybe take you out for a soda or pizza or something.”

She came and stood about three feet away from me. “Chad, is it really you?”

I nodded. She stepped closer then reached out and touched my arm, sending an electrical current up to my shoulder. Then she stepped even closer and put her hand on the side of my face and my heart skipped a beat.

“You’re more handsome than I remember. This must be a dream.”

“I know what you mean. You’re so beautiful … not at all like I remembered you.”

She laughed out loud—a sound like tinkling bells.

Her eyes glistened with unshed tears, and she whispered, “I’ve always dreamed of being your girl.”

Then I kissed her.

 

The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck

In the past couple years, I’ve heard about a new style of historical fiction stories. The authors weave an historical fiction story and a contemporary fiction story and put them in the same book, and there’s something that connects the historical with the contemporary. The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck is one of those stories and it is the first story like it that I have read.

The historical story follows the life of a young woman named, Birdie, who is from a prominent American family during the Gilded Age. She is a free-thinking independent woman, but her parents try to force her to marry a man she doesn’t love, so that the two will be even more wealthy, and put Birdie at the height of society. Her mother is much more adamant about it than her father. However, Birdie wants to marry for love, and she wants to write stories.

The contemporary story follows the life of a young woman who wrote a book in the midst of her grief over the death of her father, and it quickly becomes a New York Times Bestseller. Therefore, Tenley is pressured to write another one, but she is paralyzed by writer’s block and struggles with her emotions and who she really is. Then her mother, who deserted her twenty years ago, calls and announces she has cancer and needs Tenley to come to Florida to take care of her. However, the man Tenley has been involved with gives her an engagement ring and asks her to marry him, and he invites her to go to Paris to write.

The lives of both women are so different, yet they are connected by several threads.

I found this book impossible to put down. Last night I stayed up an hour and a half later than I usually do because I just had to finish it. I always say that a book that can make me laugh and cry is on my list of “best books”, and this one struck both of those chords within me, and there was one tremendous surprise twist in the story that I never suspected that made me laugh and cry tears of joy!

Because I, too, am a writer, I could relate to both the women in this story, and I continually cheered them on throughout the book.  The other characters also evoked strong thoughts and/or emotions within me and I either, cheered for them or wished for them to go away.

Not only was this an incredible pair of stories woven together, it was also an incredible story of loss, hurt, guilt, pain, hope, healing, and love. Birdie, Eli, Tenley, Jonas, and even Alfonse, Rose, Blanche, and Holt will live on in my memory and heart for a long time to come. This book has endeared itself to me. It is the kind of book I LOVE to talk about with friends who have also read it, and it is a book I will highly recommend to anyone who loves a wonderfully, skillfully told story that includes all of the things I’ve listed above.

The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck gets five stars from me.

I also have to say it is the first and only book that I have ever read by Rachel Hauck, but I will definitely be looking for more.

Flash Fiction Friday: Love and Writing

corinne-kutz-211251-unsplash

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: “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.

He Knows The Way by Idella Borntrager Otto

He Knows The Way by Idella Borntrager Otto is Ms. Otto’s debut novel.

Back Cover Blurb:

Ellen, a young northern Mennonite nurse is transplanted into the chaos of Mississippi’s church bombings and cross burning. When danger from the Ku Klux Klan lurks, the scripture text “He knows the way that I take and when He has tested me I will come forth as gold” nibbles at her mind like a broken record. She searches for a sense of direction.

Lord, did I misread your leading to serve you in Mississippi? I don’t need to be gold. Silver or pewter would be just fine. In the midst of racial violence, Ellen re-examines her peace-loving faith while trying to unscramble her feelings which vacillate between a handsome Yankee and her southern pastor’s engaging son.

My Review:

He Knows The Way grabbed my attention from the start with a scene of heart-pounding danger — Ellen arriving to do a job as men with guns block her path. She is alone. She is in Mississippi during racial tensions in the 1960s.

More danger crops up as the Ku Klux Klan burns a cross on the lawn of somewhere Ellen has been ministering to someone preventing Ellen from continuing in this ministry with a woman she has become very fond of.

Ellen, a young northern Mennonite nurse, struggles with the attitudes of people in the south who look down on those who are different and don’t want to treat them as human beings. In one situation, Ellen shows great courage and breaks a southern segregation rule, then fears she will lose her job for doing so.

She is encouraged to go to a school in Virginia to get her B.S.N. and apply for a nursing director position. She goes off to school where she meets a young man, and the two begin spending quite a bit of time together.

Then Ellen goes home for a school break and meets her southern pastor’s son and spends time with him.

She returns to school in Virginia, confused with tangled feelings. She prays the Lord would direct her and show her which young man is the one she might one day marry.

Between the southern tensions and the struggle to make a decision on a young man, this story kept me turning page after page. I was rooting for one particular young man, but eventually liked both men so much that I was confused. I had to keep turning pages to see how the story would clear up both Ellen’s and my confusion about which young man was right for her.

There was one place in the story where I was jolted out of the story for a chapter or two because Ellen was suddenly missing from a chapter or two. I was suddenly reading about a young man and another girl. Things soon became clear, when Ellen returned to the story and eventually met this young man.

All in all, I thought this story was very well written, it captured and held my attention, and I had to keep reading to see whom Ellen would spend her life with. Not only was it a decision as to who she would marry, but where the Lord wanted her to minister — foreign missions or missions in her own country.

I certainly hope Idella Borntrager Otto will be producing more books because I definitely look forward to reading more from her.

Flash Fiction Friday: Love at First Sight

                                            

As Finn waited for the elevator on the tenth floor, he checked his watch—2:30 p.m. He ran a hand through his blonde curls, sighed, and tapped his toe. He had to be across town in just thirty minutes. The elevator door opened and a stack of books stepped out—a stack of books with very shapely legs and a milk chocolate brown eye peeking around the books. The corners of his mouth twitched.

“Here, let me help you.” He reached to take the top eight books from the stack, revealing a young woman’s face with olive skin, glistening red, bow-shaped lips, and not one, but two of those milk chocolate brown eyes. Her crowning glory, the waves of chestnut brown hair cascading to her shoulders.

She smiled and let out a little puff of air. “Thank you. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to my office before all these books fell.”

“Your office?”

“Yeah. C’mon, follow me.” She stepped past him and he followed her down the hall, through another office doorway, down another hall, and through a door into an office with wall-to-wall bookshelves, a paper-scattered desk with padded black leather chair behind it. There were two overstuffed chairs in front of the desk. A nameplate on the desk read “Bernadine McMillan”.

The woman set her stack of books on the desk and turned toward him. “You can set those next to these.”

As he placed the books on the desk, he noted the title of the top book, To Kill a Mockingbird, one of his all-time favorites.

“Thanks for your help.” Her words pulled his attention back to her.

“Have you read all of these?” He should be going. He was going to be late, but something inside him didn’t want to leave this beautiful woman.

She smiled and nodded. “It’s necessary for my sanity. After reading the manuscripts of wannabe authors, I need to read some well-written books to remember what good writing is.”

“The manuscripts are that bad, huh?”

“Oh, I do find a rare pearl among them from time to time. That’s the best part … finding the ones worth publishing and getting out into the world.” Her eyes sparkled as she spoke of finding worthy manuscripts.

“So, you are a publisher?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Actually, I’m the head of the acquisitions department for Bradley Publishing. My name’s Bernadine McMillan, and you are?” She reached a hand toward him.

He took her hand, lowered his head, and placed a kiss on the back of it. He really wanted to kiss her glistening lips. He straightened and met her gaze. “I’m Finn. Finn Johnson, lawyer. Listen, I’m late for an appointment, but could I see you again … take you to dinner?”

“I’d like that. Any evening after five.”

“How about tomorrow, say, six-thirty?” He backed toward the door, unwilling to break eye contact with Bernadine.

She nodded, grabbed something off the desk. “Here’s my card, so you can contact me.”

She smiled, and his heart skipped a beat. He turned and practically ran out the door of her office before he lost his head, grabbed her, and kissed her.

The next evening he knocked on her apartment door five minutes early. When she opened the door, his mouth went dry and his palms began to sweat, as he took in every curve in her clinging red dress and the hint of cleavage revealed by a v-shaped neckline. Again, her lips glistened red. Her hair was pinned up in a French twist, with a few wavy tendrils framing her face. The style revealed her slender neck, and Finn found himself longing to kiss the tender spot at the base of each side of her neck.

“I thought you might be late.” She grinned at him.

He chuckled at her teasing and offered her his arm.

They talked all through dinner of their careers and their childhoods. Finn didn’t want the evening to end. As they stood outside her apartment door, he held one of her hands, and with his free hand ran the backs of his fingers down the side of her face.

“I’ve never felt such a connection to any woman before.”

“I know what you mean.” Her voice, nearly a whisper.

“You feel it too?”

She nodded.

He lowered his face and placed his lips on hers. As he deepened the kiss, he pulled her into his arms, and she moved her hands up around his neck.

When they broke the kiss, Finn ran his hands from her elbows up to her shoulders. “Bernadine, this is going to sound crazy.”

She didn’t respond but continued to gaze into his eyes.

“Bernadine, will you marry me?”

“I’d love to.”

Finn’s heart leaped in his chest, then they were kissing again.

©Kelly F. Barr 2019

Flash Fiction Friday: Battles of the Heart (Part 2)

“What is your name, lass?” The soldier’s eyes searched her face.

“Alita Washington.”

The soldier stopped and stared at her. “Not the daughter of Sir Washington? Sister of Gabriel and Jaxson Washington?”

“The very one! You knew them?”

“Aye. Gabriel was my best friend.”

“Yet you still serve his murderer?” Her green eyes sparked and flashed.

“Murderer? Miss, your father and brother, Gabriel were killed in a battle just like this one.”

“And Jaxson returned home maimed. But it was Sir Wallace who pierced my father through and left Gabriel to die on the battlefield.” She raised her voice.

“Anyone engaged in a battle can lose their life or sustain a permanent injury. Surely you can’t hold Sir Wallace accountable for actions in battle.”

“I can, I do, and I will. Now I think it best if we stopped talking and you simply lead on.”

“I’ve just one more question.” His steady gaze met hers. “How many have you killed or left on the battlefield for dead in your quest to find and kill Sir Wallace?”

She stood, her mouth hanging open, but uttered no sound.

He watched as her face crumbled, tears began to pour from her eyes and sobs racked her body. She began to sway and he caught her in his arms before she landed in a heap on the ground.

He held her and stroked her hair. “Ah, you poor lass, revenge can destroy the avenger. I know you’ve been hurt. You’ve lost loved ones and you’ve been grieving, but killing Sir Wallace won’t bring your loved ones back.”

Her sobbing subsided but he didn’t release her. He simply put a finger under her chin and tilted her face up to his. He wiped her tears with the thumb of his other hand. “Where is Jaxson and your Mum? Do they know where you are?”

She shook her head violently. “My mother died giving birth to me. Jaxson is all I have left, but he’s broken. He limps around and does what he can with his remaining hand, but he hasn’t found a way to earn any money. I don’t know what’s to become of us.”

As she looked into his eyes, he lowered his head toward hers and once again claimed her lips in a kiss. This time the kiss was long and passionate. She felt her knees go weak and put her arms around his neck and clung to him, returning his kiss.

When the kiss ended, they both stood trying to catch their breath. Then he looked into her eyes. “Marry me, Alita. I will take care of you and Jaxson.”

She gasped and stepped back. “But I’ve only just met you, and you say you were Gabriel’s best friend. How is it then that you left him on the battlefield to die? You were there, weren’t you?”

His eyes grew watery. “Aye, I was there. I tried to get to Gabriel when I saw the large soldier he was fighting gaining the upper hand, but I couldn’t reach him in time. When I did get to him, it was too late. I held him in my arms as he took his last breath. I didn’t leave him on the battlefield to die. I left him on the battlefield already dead.” Tears spilled from his eyes and he hung his head.

Alita stepped forward, put her hands on either side of his face and pulled his face to hers. She kissed him tenderly. Then she offered him a small smile. “You have asked me to marry you and I do not even know your name.”

“My name is Bertram Weinhold.”

“Well, Bertram Weinhold, I will marry you.”