Flash Fiction Friday: The Beautiful Bookworm

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Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

The Beautiful Bookworm
by Kelly F. Barr

Jordan scanned the room. What a party—lots of food, drink, loud music, dancing, conversation, and pairing off—couples in corners, on sofas, and sneaking off to other rooms. What was he doing here? Sure, Brian was his friend, but Brian knew he wasn’t into this.

Then he saw the beer cans. No way am I hanging around. What if there’s a raid? I’m not getting busted for underage drinking.

Brian was dancing with a blonde in tight jeans and a low-cut red blouse. Jordan was about to interrupt, tell Brian he was leaving, when several dancing bodies parted, giving him a clear view of a girl with long waves of brown hair hanging around her face like a curtain. She was sitting on a large, square ottoman, elbows propped on knees, reading a book. How could she read with all this noise?

Why was she here? Curiosity adjusted his path, past Brian and the blonde, until he stood directly in front of the girl on the ottoman. She didn’t raise her head from the book, so he squatted down to her level. Still no response from the bookworm. He placed an index finger in the open spine of the book, applied a little pressure, and the book lowered, revealing the largest, greenest eyes he’d ever seen. It was like staring into two perfect emeralds, and his heart skipped a beat.

“Hi, I’m Jordan. I was just wondering how you could read with all this noise.”

“It’s a great book. Have you read it?” She lifted it so he could see the cover, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.

“Uh, no, I haven’t. Listen, would you like to step outside—get some fresh air, talk where we don’t have to shout at one another?”

She shrugged, placed a bookmark between the pages, and stood up.

Jordan rose, turned, and led the way out the front door. The porch was empty. Jordan led the way to the swing.

When they were seated, Jordan, once again, peered into this girl’s emerald eyes. They enchanted him. “So, I take it, this isn’t your idea of a fun evening?” He smiled.

“Absolutely not.” She shook her head for emphasis. “Sabrina talked me into coming. She says I don’t get out enough.”

“Who’s Sabrina?”

“My older sister. She was thrilled that Brian invited her to this party. She thinks he’s hot. Mom and Dad will kill us if they find out we were here, not to mention what they’d think of Brian. I’m afraid Sabrina’s going to get in big trouble, but she won’t listen to me. She says I need to get my face out of a book and learn to live a little.”

“So, how old are you?”

“Sixteen. I’ll be seventeen in two weeks.” She fingered the book’s cover.

Jordan perched on the edge of the swing, ready to rise. “I’m sorry. I’m keeping you from your book.”

“Wait, please don’t go. I … I think you’re cute.”

She lowered her head, allowing her hair to hide her face, but not before Jordan had seen the blush creep into her cheeks. Was he the first guy she’d talked to?

He placed a finger under her chin and lifted so he could look at her face. For the first time, he forced himself to look at more than her eyes. Her creamy complexion was flawless and her pink lips formed a bow. He’d never beheld such beauty before.

He allowed his eyes to do a quick scan of the rest of her. She was wearing a white mid-calf length skirt and a mint green summer sweater.

“What’s your name?”

“Abigail.”

“How come I haven’t seen you around before?”

“My mom homeschools me. She tried homeschooling Sabrina, but Sabrina fought with her about it. Sabrina wants to be popular, and she’s boy crazy. My parents keep trying to encourage her to get to know the young people at our church, but Sabrina doesn’t want anything to do with church. I’m praying for her, and I talk to her. She listens to what I have to say, even if she doesn’t agree. I hope she at least thinks about it.”

Jordan raked a hand through his hair. “Do you have a boyfriend at your church?”

The corners of her mouth tipped a bit. “Not exactly, but there is someone interested in me.”

“Are you interested in him?” Jordan held his breath.

Abigail shrugged. “Maybe.”

“But you think I’m cute?” He quirked an eyebrow at her.

This time she didn’t lower her head, though the blush colored her cheeks again, and Jordan leaned toward her.

Abigail jumped up and Jordan nearly fell as the swing rocked.

“I’m sorry. I better find Sabrina and get home. It was nice meeting you, Jordan.” She turned to flee into the house.

Jordan moved to follow her. “Wait … Abby!”

She stopped at the front door, turned to look at him. “No one calls me that.”

“I’m sorry. Did I offend you?”

“Say it again.”

“What?”

“Say it again … what you just called me.”

“Abby.” He noticed her slight shiver. He stepped closer. “Abby … Abby … Abby.”

Standing before her, he lifted a hand, cupped the side of her face.

Then she was gone, through the door, into the crowd.

Jordan leaned against the door jamb and sighed, his heart pounding like tribal drums in his chest.

Flash Fiction Friday: At Home in Your Arms

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Photo by Ryan Young on Unsplash

At Home in Your Arms
by Kelly F. Barr

There was something about him. Something about the way he watched me.

I’d felt his eyes on me for several minutes and guarded my gaze by peeking through my lashes. He was breathtakingly handsome with cerulean eyes and a cleft chin, thick wavy blond hair that caused my fingertips to tingle with the desire to run through those waves. Muscles rippled down his golden tan arms and across his chest in his snug orange t-shirt. My heart pounded in my chest, but I couldn’t tell if he was interested in me, or if I should be concerned that he was some kind of creepy stalker guy.

I raised my head from the magazine I’d been reading and let my eyes meet his. He smiled at me, revealing bright white perfect teeth and deep dimples in his cheeks.

I smiled back. He rose to his feet and began closing the short distance between our tables. My heart pounded in my ears and drowned out the noise of the cappuccino machine behind the counter.

“May I buy you a coffee?” He towered above me.

I picked up my empty cup, gave it a little shake, and set it back down. “I’m fine, thanks.”

“Well, in that case, may I join you?”

“Okay.”

He pulled out the chair next to mine, closing the gap between us farther, sat down, and pulled himself up to the table. “Do you come here often?”

“Everyday. Can’t live without my coffee. How ‘bout you?”

“I just moved to town, so this is my first visit. I’m Randy McDaniels.”

“I’m Holly Applegate. I was born and raised here.” I retained eye contact with Randy. His eyes pulled me in like a couple magnets. “What brought you to town?”

“I got tired of the big city and the fast-paced lifestyle. I was raised on a farm and spent summers swimming in the creek.”

“Why did you go to the big city in the first place?”

“Oh you know, when you’re young you always think you’ll find something better, more exciting, than where you are.” He paused and stared into my eyes for a minute. “You have large eyes. They’re beautiful and I could look into them all day long.”

Heat crept into my cheeks and I shifted in my seat. “Um, thanks. So what are you plans for living in our small town?”

He leaned closer and lowered his voice. “Right now, I just want to get to know you better. Would you be able to spend the day with me tomorrow, show me around, and give me a taste of what it’s like to live in this quaint little town?”

My heart skipped a beat, and I cleared my throat. “Sure, I could do that. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I gathered my purse and my empty cup and rose from my seat. “I’ll meet you here at 8 a.m. You know, I gotta have my coffee.”

He grinned and nodded, and I made my exit.

The next day the sun was shining and a cool breeze teased some of the tendrils of my hair. I met Randy at the café. We grabbed coffee and a couple scones.

We visited all my favorite places in town and I introduced Randy to many of the locals. We ate lunch at Dee Dee’s Diner, laughing and talking between mouthfuls.

We went bowling, roller skating, and took in a movie. It was a romantic comedy that caused me to wonder what it would be like to hold his hand or have him put his arm around me.

I drove to the beach a half-hour outside of town. We had dinner at my favorite seafood restaurant overlooking the ocean.

After dinner, Randy looked at me as we stepped out of the restaurant. “Would you like to take a walk on the beach?”

I nodded. When my feet hit the sand, I paused and slipped my sandals off.

Randy took his socks and sneakers off, stuffed his socks into his shoes, tied the laces together, and hung them from one shoulder. Then he reached over and took my hand in his. It was a perfect fit.

We walked in silence for a while, then Randy stopped and turned toward me, letting his shoes fall to the sand. He lifted an arm, and with his fingers brushed hair back from one side of my face. Then he placed his hand on my cheek. “I had a great time today. You are fun to be with, and you are beautiful.”

He leaned toward me and I held my breath.

Then his lips were on mine. He tasted of butter and garlic, and I wrapped my arms around his neck and entangled my fingers in his hair. He encircled me in his arms and drew me closer. When the kiss ended, he continued to hold me and I put my head on his shoulder. I inhaled the scent of him—coconut and a touch of musk. His arms felt like home.

He pulled back just a bit and placed his forehead against mine. “This is what I came to this town for—the love of a good woman. You feel so right in my arms, and there seemed to be something between us as soon as our eyes met. Do you feel it?”

I nodded, raised up on tiptoes, and touched my lips to his.

When that kiss ended, he looked into my eyes. “I feel like I’m home.”

I smiled. “Me too.”

Flash Fiction Friday

What If?

by Kelly F. Barr

Was he making a mistake? They say you can’t go back in time. Thirty years had passed and he was pushing fifty. Could it just be a mid-life crisis?

She hadn’t crossed his mind in years. But then he’d found that old shoebox—the one he’d hidden way back in his closet, the one that held letters and photos faithfully sent to him during the four years he’d spent in the marines.

Maybe he’d started thinking about Carly again because he’d found the box or maybe he was lonelier than he wanted to admit. The kids were grown … had their own lives now, and it had been six years since his wife passed away.

He carried the shoebox to the living room, sat in his favorite chair, and removed the lid. He picked up the first envelope and carefully withdrew its contents. Two sheets of paper with cursive writing on every line. No one writes cursive anymore.

He read letter after letter, traveling back in time in his mind. Then he withdrew the contents of another envelope and found a picture of Carly standing near a tree smiling, strands of her long blonde hair blowing over the left side of her face and her blue-green eyes sparkling. She was a beauty. The letter accompanying the photo was the one—the one that made him a fool—the one where she had suggested they might spend some time together the next time he was home on leave.

That letter that had changed their relationship. Fresh out of high school and he’d enlisted in the marines. Carly promised to write to him the entire four years he would serve.

But when he’d received this letter, he wrote back, informing her he had a girlfriend.

Jenna had been that girlfriend, and Jenna was the girl he married upon his discharge.

Carly had been hurt. The cursive of her next letter had angry slants and dark punctuation marks. Her pen bled, How could you let me think you might be interested in me? How could you tell me how much my letters and photos meant to you—ask for more photos—when you have a girlfriend? What, are you … one of those men with a different woman in every port!

He hadn’t expected to ever hear from her again, but a month later another letter arrived, and her letters continued until his discharge. Carly had kept her promise despite the hurt he’d inflicted upon her.

What would happen if he found her … went to see her? Would she be happily married? Could there be anything between them? He wanted to try—needed to know.

A Google search found a Carly Nelson who was a songwriter. Could she be his Carly Nelson? He clicked a link and a photo popped up. A twenty-something woman with auburn hair and brown eyes.

Next he tried Facebook and found a Carly Nelson Winchester and clicked her profile photo to make it bigger. The photo filled his laptop screen. It was her—his Carly. She had a few more lines around her eyes, some silver streaks in her hair, but the smile was unmistakable. Another click and he read about her. She was still in Pennsylvania, married with four children. He searched her photos, but none of the recent photos showed a man with her.

He opened another tab, searched the airlines, and booked a ticket on the next flight to Pennsylvania. He packed a carry-on bag then lay on the bed to try to sleep but the butterflies in his stomach and the drum pounding a rhythm in his chest wouldn’t let him.

He closed his eyes and memories of working with Carly at the shoe store in the mall flowed through his mind like an old movie: Carly laughing at his corny jokes, teasing him about another female employee she knew had a crush on him, but never letting on she might be interested.

He rose from his bed, grabbed his carry-on, walked out the door of his apartment locking it behind him. Sitting behind the steering wheel of his red classic Ford Mustang, he placed his hands on the wheel, rested his head on them, and prayed this wasn’t a mistake. That Carly might be glad to see him … be willing to give him another chance.

At the Harrisburg Airport, he rented a car and drove into Lancaster … to the address the internet listed as hers. When he pulled up in front of the house, his palms grew sweaty and his throat dry because there she was … his Carly, sitting in a wooden rocking chair on the porch.

As he brought his rental car to a stop and shut off the engine, she rose to her feet and moved to the porch steps. He slid out of the car, walked around the back, and started a slow trek up the walkway. She moved a couple steps, then stopped, tears trickling down her cheeks—tears of joy or something else?

When he stood before her, she reached out a hand as if to touch his cheek, then stopped and let the hand drop. Her eyes searched his. “Keith … Keith Phillips?”

He offered a hesitant smile and nodded. Was that sadness in her eyes?

“It’s been such a long time. What are you doing here?”

Flash Fiction Friday: An Unexpected Blind Date

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Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded.

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

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

After the movie, we went for pizza.

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

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

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

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

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

“A few.” His eyes bored into mine.

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

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

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

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

“I’m available next Saturday.”

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

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

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

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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.