Flash Fiction Friday: The Friendship Contract Part I

Isabel sat in the cafe, hands wrapped around her warm mug of tea, staring out the window at the rain. She struggled to get warm. She was chilled to the bone but supposed that was better than the numbness she’d felt for so long.

The raindrops were like the many tears she had shed. After so many failed relationships and so much heartache, she had become an empty shell.

“Would you mind if I sat here at your table?” A rich baritone voice interrupted her thoughts.

She looked up into the aqua colored eyes of a tall man with waves of black hair framing his ruggedly handsome face. Anxiety gripped her and she looked around the cafe–not an empty table anywhere. That must be why he was asking to sit at her table. She turned her eyes to his once again. “Um, yes, sure, you can sit here. I was just leaving.” She reached for her raincoat.

The man took the seat across from her. “Please, don’t leave because of me. You haven’t even finished your tea.” His eyes moved from her mug back to her face.

“It’s okay. I really wasn’t thirsty anyway.” She finished putting her arm in her raincoat, slung her purse strap over her shoulder, and picked up her umbrella. Then she strode to the cafe door and out into the rain, her heart thumping like a big bass drum in her chest.

* * *

Two days later, Isabel, arms full of books, tried to open the door to the same cafe.

“Here, let me get that for you.” A rich baritone voice spoke as an arm reached and the hand grabbed the door handle and opened it.

Isabel looked up into the same aqua eyes from two days ago and mumbled, “Thank you.”

The man smiled, revealing straight white teeth and deep dimples. “How nice to see you again. May I help you with those books?”

He reached to take the books from her arms, but Isabel turned away.

“It’s all right. I’ve got them.” She moved to put the books on a table, and after she did, she turned to move to the counter to order her tea and walked into the man with the baritone voice.

He looked at the spines on the stack of books. He murmured a couple of the titles aloud, “How to be Happy Alone; Single and Happy Life Journal; How to Overcome Loneliness”. He turned his eyes back to her, one eyebrow raised.

Heat crept up Isabel’s neck into her cheeks. She lowered her eyes and wished she could melt into the floor.

“My name’s Brett Hoover. Would you please allow me to join you at this table this afternoon?”

Isabel straightened, pulled her shoulders back, and lifted her chin. “Look, Mr. Hoover, I don’t know what it is you want, but whatever it is, I’m not interested. I just want to be left alone.” She tried to step around him.

He moved to block her escape. “Please, miss, I don’t want anything other than to share a table and some conversation … maybe help you if I can.” His tone was soft and gentle.

Isabel was at a loss for words. Help her? He wanted to help her? Just what did he think he could do? Brett didn’t move. He was waiting for a response. Isabel resigned herself to the fact that there was no way to avoid this guy. She shrugged her shoulders. He could share her table and he could talk, but that didn’t mean she had to talk.

They went to the counter and placed their orders — something a bit more substantial than just coffee and tea. Then they returned to their table, and Isabel quickly whisked the stack of books from the table and placed them on the floor by her chair.

“I’ve introduced myself, but I didn’t catch your name?”

Isabel studied him for a minute. What did he want? But all she saw in his eyes was kindness. “My name is Isabel. Isabel Tomson.”

“Well, Isabel Tomson, you seem to be lonely and unhappy. Would you like a friend?”

“A friend?” She wrinkled her brow.

Brett raised a hand. “I swear … a friend. No strings attached, and if you don’t like talking with me or meeting me in public places, you can tell me to get lost at any time.”

“Why?”

Now it was Brett’s turn to wrinkle his brow. “What do you mean, ‘why'”?

She dropped her eyes to his hands that rested on the table. No wedding ring. “So, you’re single?”

He nodded.

“Why do you want to be my friend?”

“Because you need one.”

“That’s it? Because I need one?”

Again, he nodded. “What do you say, Isabel? Will you give it a try?”

“What’s in it for you?”

“Ah, I see. You’ve been hurt. A man, or maybe more than one.”

Isabel sat back in her chair and met Brett’s gaze. “More than one. Enough men to make me distrust all men because they’re not interested unless there’s something in it for them.” She held his gaze, and her eyes challenged him.

“I am so sorry you’ve been hurt and that it has caused you such distrust in men. But my offer is real and honest. I just want to be your friend … help you learn to trust again. If you like, I’ll put the offer on paper and we can both sign it.” He smiled.

His smile was genuine. “Like a contract?” Isabel quirked an eyebrow at him.

They were interrupted momentarily, when the barista brought their food and drinks. When the barista walked away, Brett nodded. “Like a contract.”

Isabel picked up her fork and stabbed some lettuce and a cherry tomato. She raised it but before putting it into her mouth, said, “I’ll take the contract.”

 

 

 

Flash Fiction Friday: The “Block” Button Part 2

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Photo by Justin Snyder Photo on Unsplash

The “Block” Button – Part 2
by Kelly F. Barr

One week after pushing the “block” button, Theresa found that her credit card had been charged a couple thousand dollars she hadn’t spent. When she called about the charges, she wasn’t able to have them all returned, so the way she understood it, she was now responsible for $1500 she didn’t have.

She knew how those charges had occurred. It had to be him. I guess pushing the block button was the right thing to do. How could he say all those sweet, loving words and take advantage of me like this? The world seemed to have a lot more cruel people than when she was a kid, or maybe it only seemed that way because now she was an adult and more aware of people’s actions. Well, she’d gotten that credit card canceled so he wouldn’t be charging anything else.

December arrived and Theresa dreaded the coming Christmas. Christmas was supposed to be for spending time with loved ones but she was alone. All she could think about were the “what ifs”–What if he hadn’t been a scammer? What if he’d really loved her? What if he’d actually come to town to see her?

She walked through town, cold and alone, hands shoved deep into her coat pockets as couples walked by holding hands, talking, and smiling. She barely looked in the shop windows all decorated with colored lights, Christmas trees, and Santa Clauses. As she approached the steps to her apartment building, she noticed a man standing next to the stairs blowing onto his clasped hands trying to warm them. Would it be safe to enter her building or should she pass like she didn’t live there?

The wind picked up and stung her face. She’d have to chance it. She had nowhere else to go and it was too cold to keep walking. She raised her shoulders, ducking deeper into her coat, and kept her head down as she passed the man.

“Theresa?”

She stopped, turned to look up at the guy. She’d never seen him before. How did he know her name? “Who are you?”

“Roger Altland.” He stared at her, studying her face.

It was him. He was here. But she’d blocked him. “How did you find me?”

“It wasn’t difficult with today’s technology. After all, you’d told me the name of your town and state.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I miss you. You blocked me so I couldn’t contact you through email anymore, and when I went back to Facebook to find you, I couldn’t find your account.”

“I deleted it.”

“Listen, it’s cold out here. Can we go somewhere warm and talk?”

“What’s to talk about? You scammed me and now I have a $1500 credit card bill I can’t afford to pay.”

“I understand you’re hurt and angry, but could you please give me a chance?”

“I gave you your chance and you used it to stab me in the back.” She turned and started up the steps.

“Please. I know what I did was wrong and I’d like to make it right. Besides, I couldn’t stop thinking about you. You were the first woman I attempted to scam with a romance scam. After you blocked me I couldn’t stop thinking about you or the things we’d said to each other. I really did develop feelings of love toward you … please … can we talk?”

She turned and looked him in the eye. “Love doesn’t stay where there is no trust.” She turned and hurried into the apartment building.

Flash Fiction Friday: The “Block” Button

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Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

The “Block” Button
by Kelly F. Barr

Theresa pushed the “block” button to block his messages and felt her heart tear in two. All her friends, and her own head, told her this was the right thing to do, but would her heart … could her heart … survive it?

Yeah, she’d heard all the warnings: “Don’t make friends with strangers on the internet”, reminiscent of the “Don’t talk to strangers” rule her parents had taught her when she was a young child. But didn’t everyone do it? Wasn’t it called socializing?

Maybe, but you weren’t supposed to lose your heart, and that is what she had done. He was so sweet; so romantic. He’d said he loved her.

Had there been red flags? Yeah, small ones at first that her heart brushed aside. Then the red flags began to occur more often—“buy a $100 Amazon gift card and send me a photo of the card and receipt”; “can I have the username and password to your credit card account”? She’d fulfilled a couple of these requests, but she wasn’t made of money.

Then he’d sent her money. So was he really a bad guy?

Theresa got scared and changed all her usernames and passwords to keep him out because of all the warnings she kept hearing in her head. Today, pushing the “block” button was her last act to shut him out. She was listening to her head while her heart shattered, leaving an incredible ache in her chest.

He’d promised he’d never let her go, said he’d fight for her.

Now she wondered, would he … could he? Would he come and find her, declare his love and propose to her as he’d promised?

Or had pushing the “block” button not only severed their connection, but also left him devastated? He had told her he had no one else but her in the world. Was that true?

Unbearable guilt and pain filled her chest. Though she had never met him face-to-face, he’d made her feel more loved than anyone else ever had.

Had pushing that “block” button protected her from someone she needed protection from, or had it shut out her knight in shining armor?

Flash Fiction Friday: “Trusting Hunter”

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Photo by Patrik Chiminec on Unsplash

Trusting Hunter
by Kelly F. Barr

 

Maddie walked along the riverfront, alone again, story of her life. She couldn’t figure out if there was something wrong with all the men in the world or if it was her. She veered off and entered the park, but it wasn’t long until she was wishing she hadn’t as she saw couples holding hands, talking, and laughing. They all looked so happy and comfortable.

It must be her—with all her fears and insecurities—who could ever earn her trust? Maddie cursed all those who had hurt her in the past. It had begun with her parents, then boys in high school, and finally grown men. Maybe she was better off alone. But how could she convince her heart?

She sat on a park bench and sighed. Maddie didn’t believe in “happily ever after”. She’d seen too much real life for that. Relationships took work—real work, and if both people didn’t put in their share of the work, the relationship would fall apart. She just wanted to find someone willing to work with her, to treat her like she was the most important person in their life. Was that too much to ask?

“Do you mind if I sit here?”

A gravelly male voice startled her. Maddie turned to find a man in faded blue jeans and a black t-shirt with disheveled dark brown hair standing at the other end of the bench. She shook her head and the gentleman sat down.

“Are you okay?” He reached into his right jeans pocket and pulled out a white handkerchief. “You can use this. I promise it’s clean.”

Maddie wrinkled her brow, then lifted her left hand and placed her fingers on her cheek. It was wet. She hadn’t even realized she was crying. She swiped the tears away. “No, thank you.” A white handkerchief. He really has a clean, white handkerchief. She didn’t think any men carried hankies anymore.

“Let me guess … relationship problems or one recently ended.”

Maddie raised an eyebrow and frowned.

“I’m sorry. It’s just so common anymore. The dating pool lacks good character. People are too self-absorbed in today’s world. It’s tough to find someone who cares about the wants and needs of another.”

Where had this man come from? Maddie remained silent.

He smiled at her. “I’m Hunter Winters. Would you like to grab a cup of coffee? There’s a nice café just a block from here. If you need someone to talk to, I’m a good listener.”

Maddie was taken aback. Should she even consider a man with the name “Hunter”? Why would he want to listen to the sob story of a total stranger? Yet, something about his offer was very appealing, and he didn’t seem threatening at all. She continued to consider him.

He stood up and reached out his hand. “Come on, what d’ya say? Maybe you’ll feel better after a good latte and a listening, nonjudgmental ear from someone who’s been where you are.”

Maddie smiled, took his hand, and stood. If Hunter was feeding her a line, it was definitely the most unique one she’d ever heard. “That’s the best offer I’ve had in a long time.”

Hunter smiled and, still holding her hand, led the way out of the park.