Posts Tagged ‘romance’

It’s Still Me (Part Two)

Posted: October 20, 2014 by writingsprint in Science fiction
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mass-effect-1-ashley-romance

Continued from “It’s Still Me“– spoilers for the video game Mass Effect 2

“We’ll stay here until the evacuation is complete. I hope we can talk before then.”

“We’ll see.” Ash stared through him. She might as well have been talking to a mirage behind him.

Shepard went to find his own crew. They were performing medical support for the colonists. The Alliance commander didn’t trust Cerberus, either, but he was thankful for the help. He insisted that his own troops perform security, and that the Normandy’s crew kept their weapons slung unless the Collectors returned. It chafed Shepard, but he recognized the protocol: the same as mercenaries at an Alliance colony.

Miranda was directing the team, and making sure the Normandy got a share of Collector bodies and technology for analysis. Shepard also thought she was watching him. Maybe she was afraid he would defect.

Evacuation shuttles began mustering about an hour later. Crying children held strangers’ hands as they boarded. Adults sniffed back tears, too, or held their faces in still masks to keep from breaking down. A few brought mementos with them. One picked up a handful of dirt. Shepard looked up at the sky, wondering where the bastards had taken these people’s families.

And what they were doing with them.

Like any good soldier, Ash was among the last to leave. Shepard saw her as he helped a colonist load a crate of supplies into a shuttle. She walked alongside the security chief, talking and pointing to the colony’s defense guns. They would probably dismount them after the colonists were safely away. Shepard smirked. He couldn’t stop thinking like an Alliance soldier himself.

Ash walked toward him slowly. Shepard thought of the last time they’d said goodbye, with the ship shaking, them talking to each other through their helmets because the ship was bleeding oxygen. He remembered her eyes.

He had to tell her how he felt.

Shepard secured the crate and walked down from the shuttle. When Ash didn’t turn away, he said, “I wanted to say goodbye.” Ash started to shake her head. “Look, I’m sorry for how this happened. I love you, Ash. This symbol on my armor doesn’t mean anything.

“Stop it. Stop!” Ash snapped the words like bullets from a sharp rifle. Shepard suddenly saw two long years of experience on those shoulders. He shouldn’t have thought she was the same Ash.

Her expression softened. “Dear God. It’s that same look on your face. You have the same voice. You sound just like you did in my dreams.”

Shepard wanted to hold her. Unbearably, painfully so. He had to let her talk. He was the one who’d thrown her world upside-down, showing up with Cerberus like this.

“I’m the one who’s sorry. I didn’t mean those things I said. When the Collectors attacked I thought it was all over. And all I could think about was you and me, fighting tooth and nail against an alien enemy, and how by some miracle we pulled it off!

“Then the guns started firing. Then I saw you. First I was glad. Then I thought, two years? And how could you have walked away. Then I saw that stupid emblem on your armor, and I lost it. I just lost it. I thought it wasn’t you. Couldn’t be you. Or that it was all a lie.”

“All I could think about after they woke me up was how to get back to you. You have to believe me.”

She stepped toward him. “Is it really you?”

There had been times he’d wondered. Someone brings you back from being a slab of burned meat…

Ash put her hand over his heart. He held it. She looked into his eyes.

He couldn’t help it any more. He kissed her. For a second, he imagined he was back in her arms, back in that awful, brick-foam bunk in his cabin. They were afraid they would die tomorrow. For that night, they gave each other something to live for.

Ash pushed him away. She had tears in her eyes. “I can’t. Damn it.” She punched his chest. “What’s the matter with you?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Two years. I mourned you. I let go of you!”

Shepard felt like his heart ripped open. “Ash, for me it’s yesterday!”

Ash composed herself. Again, Shepard saw the woman she’d become, not the woman he’d known. He wondered how much he’d truly lost. “I moved on. I’m an Alliance special operative. I don’t know if you’re the man I loved or not.”

Instead of feeling like he’d been kicked in the belly—that would settle in later—he felt like cold, settled water.

She had a point.

And she and he were headed to opposite sides of the galaxy.

Even if he proved himself to her, would he see her again?

“It’s me, Ash. And right now, I can do more good with Cerberus.” His dreams of holding her as they flew away together on a shuttle were falling away like old paper. “I didn’t think this all the way through. I was just so glad you were alive, and then I was just glad to see you… I didn’t think about the rest.” He touched her arm. “Be careful out there, okay?”

She nodded. He looked away from her—it sucked—and started to leave.

Ash kissed his cheek. Shepard’s eyes widened. She gave him a quick strong hug. “Just in case it is you,” she said. Shepard hugged her back.

A soldier called her to board the shuttle. She gave him a wave. She let go and hurried aboard. Shepard hoped for one last look at her face, but the trooper slammed the hatch shut too fast for him to see.

The shuttle’s thrusters fired, blasting hot air into his face. Then it was gone. She was, too.

His radio crackled. “Shepard, this is Miranda. Colony assistance team is mustered at the landing zone. Ready to leave when you are.”

“On my way.” Shepard jogged to meet his shuttle. His thoughts were on Ashley’s.

Image credit: “Mass Effect 1 Ashley Romance H1n“at W5d.com, used without permission

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She Told Him That She Loved Only Him

Posted: October 16, 2014 by writingsprint in Drama
Tags: , , , , , , ,

cleaning up the attic

Post #7 of the “She told him that she loved him” series. How many others were there? Who cares.

Felicia nearly walked right into the attic stairs, pulled down from the trap door in the third floor hall ceiling. She put the bin down. Hair fell into her eyes. She poofed it back. “Hello up there,” she called.

“Hi. Oh, sorry about the stairs.”

“Finding anything we can give to Goodwill?”

“A few things. I’m putting another bin together.”

Felicia checked the hall. She couldn’t walk through it with her bin with the stairs in the way, and the air became suffocating in the attic if you left the trap door closed too long. She sighed. Might as well see what Liam was so fascinated over.

On second thought, the attic could be stifling even with the door open. She coughed. Next to the stairs, Liam had piled four boxes and a trunk. He shuffled over to her. With their peaked roof, it was only high enough for someone to stand right in the middle of the attic.

“It’s mostly high school stuff. Records, comic books, board games, and shirts.”

“Oh my God. Look at all the fluorescents.”

“I looked damned good in it at the time.”

“I’ll bet you did, honey.” A fifth box was still in the corner. The lid was open, but he’d left it there. “What’s that one?”

Liam smiled a half smile. “I was going to tell you about that one. I opened it by mistake.”

She frowned. “What do you mean?”

Liam dragged it over. “It’s all your lost loves.”

Felicia put her hand over her face. That’s what she actually called it, too. A picture of a crying doll was taped to the inside of the lid, with the words “lost loves” written in red pen. She saw what happened. She’d put the box all the way in the back so that no one would see it, and wrapped it in twine. After 20 years, two moves, and who knew how many times rearranging the attic, the twine had frayed and fallen away.

“Oh. Look at this. I should just throw it all away.”

“It’s up to you. Your memories are important to you.”

“Teen Beat magazines and love letters to boys who never knew me?”

“I saw some from when you were in college.”

“Yeah, that’s true too. I stopped collecting after I graduated.” Felicia flipped through them. Tom. Kenny. David. Her heart skipped a beat on some of them. Sometimes you found the right person at the wrong time. She’d had to find herself first. “Do guys keep things like this?”

“Not a box of pictures. I made a list once.”

“How long was it?”

“Not enough for a box. But they were good memories, too.”

Felicia kissed him. “You know what they say. You’re not the first man I loved. Just my last.”

He caressed her hand, still resting on the box. “I know.”

Photo credit: “Cleaning the Attic” by Joe Shlabotnik at Flickr
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She Told Only Him That She Loved Him

Posted: October 11, 2014 by writingsprint in Drama
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suitcase

Post #3 of the “She told him that she loved him” series. This one reminded me of Romeo and Juliet, the secret lovers from two warring families.

Romero paced back and forth in the parking lot behind the Stop and Shop. He didn’t smoke, but he was so nervous that he’d started chewing gum so that he didn’t grind his teeth instead. The Stop and Shop’s loading dock was empty, except for the employees that came outside to smoke a cigarette now and then. Romero hadn’t seen any in about an hour. He couldn’t think of anyplace that was more private than this in the area that also had good access to the road.

Julie’s car finally came around the corner. It was driven by her twin sister Kate. Romero could tell the difference: Kate’s face was rounder in the cheekbones. They both looked worried, but Julie looked worse. Her face was a mirror of Romero’s.

Kate pulled over close enough to Romero to make him jump out of the way. Julie popped open her door as the car rolled to a stop. He heard Julie say, “Watch it, Kate. He’s driving. He can’t drive without legs.”

“Were you followed?” Romero asked. He saw her Julie’s suitcase in the back seat. He moved to get it.

“Who do I look like? James Bond?” Kate asked. “I kept from speeding so we didn’t get pulled over. Nobody waved to us on the road.”

“Never mind. Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.”

Julie finally got out of the car. Romero put down her bag and hugged her. He wanted to keep hugging her but they didn’t have time.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Julie asked.

“I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life.”

“Your parents will never forgive you.”

“Neither will yours.”

“Maybe after we’re married they’ll finally sort things out between them.”

“That’s up to them. We have to take care of ourselves.”

Kate looked around the parking lot. “Guys, come on. You can profess eternal love to each other while you’re driving. Get out of here.”

Visions of brothers, fathers, guns and baseball bats drifted through Romero’s mind. “You’re right. Thanks, Kate.”

He moved to hug her but Kate held up her hands. “Just… I’m too freaked out about all this. Just be careful. Both of you.”

Julie hugged her. “We’ll mail you a T-shirt from the chapel in Vegas.”

Romero loaded Julie’s suitcase next to his in the trunk. He gave Kate a quick wave as they peeled out of the parking lot. No one knew that he and Julie loved each other. But they were about to find out.

Photo credit: “Farewell to good times 2” by elitatt at Flickr
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She Only Told Him That She Loved Him

Posted: October 9, 2014 by writingsprint in Drama
Tags: , , , , , ,

business womanContinuing yesterday’s exercise with moving the word “only” around in the sentence “She told him that she loved him” and seeing how the meaning changes.

Maggie threw on her coat. She had her briefcase, her lunch bag, her laptop, and her phone. Her second briefcase was in the car already. She’d checked it twice.

Bruce walked over to kiss her goodbye. Maggie turned away. “No. Don’t. My makeup’s perfect and I have a meeting in two hours.”

“So? Fix it when you get there.”

“I can’t fix it when I get there. People will see.” Maggie gave him a quick hug with an air kiss by the side of his face. “Have a good day. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

Bruce’s hug was half-hearted. He let go without lingering in their hug like he normally did. Maggie asked, “What?”

Bruce looked confused. “I said I love you too.”

“I know.” She gathered up her work supplies. “You didn’t sound happy.”

“Well, I’m not. I like kissing you goodbye, but I can’t today. It’s a bummer. I hope your meeting goes well.”

“Me too.” Maggie pulled on her gloves. “It’s our first annual review with our new parent company. I need to be presentable.”

“I understand.” Bruce helped her pick up her things. “It’s easier for me, working from home. Video teleconference is more forgiving.”

That it was. There were many days that Maggie wished she could trade in her blazer and heels for a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. Bruce still dressed presentably, but he didn’t have to look flawless.

He asked, “How about if I get take-out for dinner from Dmitri’s, to celebrate when it’s done? I’ll get the alfredo that you like.”

They loaded the car. Bruce hit the garage door switch as Maggie got in and turned the ignition. She closed the door and rolled the window down. “Do they do take-out?”

“Maybe if I ask nicely. They like us.” Bruce backed out of the way of the car.

Maggie smiled. “I’d give you a much nicer hug if I wasn’t about to back up.”

“Go knock ’em dead.”

“All right. See you tonight. Love you!”

“Love you too.”

Maggie waved. She saw him sigh as she drove away. Kissing him goodbye was actually the second-favorite part of her day, after kissing him hello in the evening. Who was the moron who invented makeup anyway?

Photo credit: “Business” by Steve Wilson at Flickr
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Sweeter Than Sunlight

Posted: October 1, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
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heart by the sea

Erica had taken an entire second week off from work on the assumption that Aaron would say yes to her proposal. She had imagined they would spend it having sex, having room service, taking selfies while drinking champagne, cliff diving and snorkeling until it was time to go back to bed and disturb the neighbors again. Instead, they spent another day with Aaron’s family, then a third day on an underwater tour of his world. They did get to disturb Aaron’s underwater neighbors instead. It was awkward at first, but being able to do underwater acrobatics to their hearts’ content had its advantages.

The next day Erica and Aaron passed back through the vortex. Erica felt like she’d suddenly dropped lead weights onto her chest as she passed through. She kicked hard for the surface, then gasped for air. It did taste sweet, and it felt light as feathers on her face. Erica blinked. The stinging sunlight felt good on her eyes, too.

Aaron popped up alongside her. A small pouch about the size of his thumb hung around his neck. He wouldn’t say what it was, but he’d picked it up yesterday. Aaron looked around. “Which way is the beach?”

“It’s behind you. Quarter-mile off, right where we left it.” Aaron worked on treading water as he tried to see it. “So you’ll need to quit your job. I’ll need to get a sabbatical from mine.”

“I can talk to the director at the university where I got my degree. He owes me some great big favors.” He smiled. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“It’s the adventure of a lifetime. Of course I’m sure.” They were going to split time between her world and his. First they would spend a year under the ocean. Then they would live on land again while spending weekends with Aaron’s relatives. They were brainstorming ideas to work their way around coastlines of the world and see what there was to see.

“All right, then. I need to tell you something.”

“Don’t tell me you’re Bigfoot.”

He reached into the pouch—no mean feat while he treaded water with just his legs—and took out a ring, a pearl surrounded by little diamonds. “I will happily marry you. You make me the luckiest, happiest man on Earth or sea. Will you marry me?”

“Come here, you goof.” She kissed him. Aaron tasted like salt and stars. She hugged him. “Yes!”

I liked this one! The end felt a little rushed and I want to get into Erica and Aaron some more, but overall I liked the characters and the otherworldliness of the story.

Photo credit: “Lovers in a Heart” by Michael Coghlan at Flickr
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Why They Follow You

Posted: September 25, 2014 by writingsprint in Science fiction
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holding hands

Spoilers ahead for those who are interested in playing Mass Effect 2.

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I just played through what I think is the first romance scene with Shepard and Miranda. It gave me ideas for something more awkward and funny.

This scene takes place just after Tali’s loyalty mission, and shortly after Miranda’s loyalty mission. Miranda saved her sister and met her. Shepard made an impassioned speech for Tali and the Admiralty ruled in her favor.

After they returned, word got around about how Shepard stood up for Tali in front of the ruling government of the Quarian fleet. Garrus even downloaded the recording from Shepard’s helmet camera and showed it to some of the officers. Tali was embarrassed but in a good way. Shepard told them to erase it, with some thanks and appreciation. They left the Quarians and headed for the nearest refueling station. They had a long way to go on FTL to reach the mass relay that would take them back to Ilium.

Later that night, Miranda and Shepard were in the briefing room looking at a map of the galaxy, figuring out their next move. He periodically worked his shoulder in circles. Some of the geth had hit him with heavy rounds. His ears still rung. His shoulder and some of this other joints felt out of whack.

After three hours of planning through strategy and countermeasures, Shepard finally yawned, and Miranda joined him. He laughed. “All right. I’d say we’ve both had enough for one day.” He checked their position. “What time do we hit the mass relay?”

“About 0900 tomorrow morning.”

“Perfect. Time for sleep and some coffee.”

“Even a workout.”

“You work out. I’m taking a rest day.”

“I’m surprised you’re not taking a week.”

He chuckled. “Long-ass day. God, I hate politics.”

“Shooting geth doesn’t bother you.”

“Nope. That never gets old.”

“I saw your speech. For a man who hates politics, you did a pretty good job.”

He rolled his eyes. “You saw it too?”

“I was the first one who did. I came here to check ship movements, and I found Garrus swearing at the console. If I hadn’t helped him he probably would have botched the job.”

“And now half the crew’s seen it.”

“Yeah, well. Sorry about that. But like I said, good speech. You had me wanting to yell, ‘Set her free!’”

Shepard smiled. “That’s… it wasn’t a speech. I just said how I felt about her. What she did for us. It was the truth.”

Miranda gave him a long look. He liked looking at her eyes, but Shepard felt like he was under a magnifying glass. Or a biotic thought scan.

“What?”

“I think that’s what makes people want to follow you. You’d go to the gates of Hell and back for your people. They’d do the same for you.”

Shepard didn’t want to mention that soon, that was exactly what he would ask them to do. “Thanks. And thank you for making it possible. I never could have gotten here without you.”

Miranda shook her head. “I can’t take credit for that.”

“The hell you can’t. If it wasn’t for you I would have dug my implants out of my skin with my fingers in the first week after I woke up. Put a knife through my own neck. One and done.” He made a gesture of slashing his own throat. Miranda’s mouth fell open. “It’s the truth. I didn’t look at mirrors. I couldn’t stand seeing those wires under my skin. At night I dreamed I was a geth program pretending to be Shepard. But you’re just so… solid. That’s what I held on to. ‘Miranda believes it. Trust her.’”

“I thought you didn’t trust me. Before.”

“I didn’t. That’s the one part of you that I did trust. I guess you won me over.”

Miranda smiled at him. “That really means a lot. We’ve come a long way, you and I.”

She did have one fantastic smile. Shepard caught himself staring at her eyes.

Then she sighed. “I do wish I had that passionate resolve of yours.”

“What do you mean? You’re the most committed member of the team. Ever wonder why you always draw the short straw when we’ve got a high-stakes mission?”

“I don’t have what it takes to do what you do.”

“Now I really don’t understand.”

“Look. In the field, I’m great. I can do it all. I’m superior, physically and intellectually. But I don’t own any of that. Hell, sometimes I’m ashamed of it. You are who you are. Even the bad shit that’s happened to you, you overcame it. It made you stronger. I was my father’s experiment and he succeeded.” She held her hands up to her face. “Even how I look. Nothing that I’ve done is mine.”

“Hey! Miri… hey.” He leaned toward her. “None of us asks to be born. We all have someone else’s genes. You made your own decisions. Everything you accomplished is something you did. You’re a kickass field operative and you see the angles better than anybody.”

“But it’s not enough to be good, is it? There are crack shots and good hacks and scientists who could throw us across the galaxy if you shot their brains full of enough element zero.” She tapped the table. Then she zoomed in on the Omega 4 relay. It glared at them like a demonic red eye. Its glow turned the room crimson. “This is what keeps me up at night, Shepard. Being good won’t be enough to beat what’s on the other side of this relay.”

Shepard stood next to her. He stared into the image. It felt like they were the only two people who stood between its horrors, and the rest of the galaxy. “You’re right.” He wiped the image off.

With the evil image gone, Shepard realized he was probably standing closer to Miranda than a fellow officer should. He wanted to take her hand.

Shepard stepped back. He continued, “People on this ship don’t follow you because you’re good, Miri. They follow you because they trust you. That you’re going to bring them home. Jack’s good. Zaheed’s good. Hell… Grunt’s good.” She laughed. “But people don’t follow them.”

“They don’t follow me because I’m good. They do because I’ve got the Illusive Man behind me.”

“Wrong. Have you ever asked them why they’re here?”

Miranda became still. She shook her head slowly. “I thought, I was in command, and I’d talk to them when it was necessary.”

“Tomorrow, you’ll have the ship while I go to meet the justicar on Ilium. Take a walk around. Say you’re there to check in on how things are going. Then ask why they’re here. Just about all of them are here because they think Cerberus is doing more good for Earth than the Alliance.”

“Well, I believe that.”

“I know that. So do you. Right now, they’re taking how you feel about it on faith. Show it to them, though, and they’ll follow you anywhere.”

“Even where we’re going?”

“If you want them to follow you to the gates of Hell, let them know you care about them.” She started to roll her eyes. “I’m not talking all touchy-feely let’s have a group hug care about them. I mean you have to care about more than the mission. Things like getting them home, and protecting their kids. People will kill for money, but they’ll only die for what they love.” He took her hand. “I saw the look in your eyes when you went to talk to your sister. You know what I’m talking about.”

She nodded, looking at their hands. “I’d do anything to keep her safe.” She gripped his hand. He was in awe of her strength, inside.

When she looked up, Shepard lost all words. He didn’t want to let go of her hand. Shepard, the man who stopped the Reapers, felt his heart jump into his throat.

“Why’d you call me ‘Miri’?” she asked.

“I… that’s what your sister called you… I wanted to stop calling you ‘Miranda.’”

She rubbed her thumb over his hand. He caressed hers back. Shepard’s mind swam. To him, it hadn’t been that long since Ashley held his hand like this. It felt too soon, but Ash was gone. He liked being this close to her. He didn’t want to be anywhere else. Shepard thought about proper officer conduct, too, but that horse pretty much left the barn.

Come on, John…

Shepard squeezed her hand. He let go. Miranda did, too. They tried to look casual, but they both made a mess of it. “I… uh… need to get some sleep. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Yes. Of course.”

Miranda gathered up her notes. Shepard wanted to gather his, but he’d have to reach past her to do it, and right now he didn’t trust himself to do that without taking her in his arms.

She faced him. “Commander,” she said, nodding. Miranda looked like she was trying not to smile. He was between her and the door.

“G’night, Miranda.” He stepped aside.

She brushed his arm as she walked by. Shepard held his breath. Her touch felt like an electrical charge crackled all over his skin.

After the door closed, Shepard rubbed his arms. He still had gooseflesh. “Wow,” he said. This coming from the guy who made the speech of the day.

Photo credit: “holding hands” by Waithamai at Flickr
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Rustle

Posted: August 2, 2014 by writingsprint in Drama
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Another gem from Mads. This one’s thoughtful and romantic.

Rhymes with Grime

Posted: August 1, 2014 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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I laughed out loud at this post by Mads. I’m imagining Hugh Grant and Renee Zellweger as Lord Pottinger and Lady Lobelia.

Shy Guy

Posted: May 7, 2014 by writingsprint in Drama
Tags: , , , , , ,

treadmillJohn met his workout partner Suzanne at the gym the morning after New Year’s. “That was a fun time last night. Your cousin’s a good kisser.”

She hit him on the arm. “Hey. Off limits, buster!” Then she smiled. “Actually, that’s what she said about you.”

John ducked his head, smiling back. “Really?”

Suzanne folded her arms. “You are so full of it. I thought I had you pegged, but the way you two warmed up? Lizzy doesn’t warm up like that to anybody.” They started for the cardio machines to warm up.

“I… I don’t know. We had chemistry?”

“Tell me the truth. Sometimes you play up how shy you are, because you know girls think it’s cute.”

John bit his lip. “Sometimes.”

“I knew it!”

“I swear I don’t do it on purpose. You do it enough times, it becomes a habit. It’s not like it’s ever gotten me a date or anything.” He smiled. “But it does score points.” His smile faded. “Are you mad?”

“Hell no. I wanted to make sure she had fun this weekend. I just didn’t think you’d be the entertainment.”

John got on a treadmill. Suzanne got on the elliptical machine next to him. They tried to gauge who was working out harder.

“So how long is she in town?”

Suzanne shook her head. “The shy guy’s looking for a date. I tell you what, you’re changing everything I thought I knew about you.” They started moving on their machines.

“Sue, come on!”

“’Til tomorrow night. She had a bad headache this morning, but I’ll ask her when I get back.”

John smiled. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it.”

“Tell you what. If I beat my personal best today…. you’ll put in a good word for me.”

Suzanne shook her head.

“No?”

“You don’t need it.”

“Yes, I do.”

“You really want to make it interesting?”

“Uh oh.”

“Personal best, across the board. I’ll set your goals.” She cranked up the speed on his treadmill. “Starting now.”

John starting pumping his arms to keep up. It wasn’t the fastest he’d ever gone, but he’d never held speed like this for the full 45 minutes. “You’d better make me sound great.”

Suzanne ticked the resistance up. “Great costs extra.”

“I’ll be too tired to—”

“To what, lover boy?”

John gave her his shy smile again. Suzanne shook her head. “And to think, I fell for that too.”

Photo credit: “Running on a treadmill” by E’lisa Campbell at Flickr
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Can I Buy You Lunch?

Posted: April 23, 2014 by writingsprint in Romance
Tags: , , , ,
Can I buy you lunch?

“Seattle Smiles” by Santhosh Rajangam

A wave of bead-throwing revelers walked by the coffee shop. A woman sat down next to Kevin, wearing a pair of silver necklaces and a purple top. The waitress didn’t even ask. She handed her a coffee, cream and sugar. The girl lifted it to him in a toast.

“You’re a regular?” he asked.

She nodded. “I live upstairs. Where are your beads?” She spoke with a lovely, lazy brush of a Cajun accent.

Kevin pointed to his feet. A handful of beads and a bag of T-shirts and touristy gifts huddled under his stool. “I needed real food and something to drink besides alcohol.”

“I thought that was part of the fun.”

“Yeah, well. Can’t drink every day. I like the music scene, too.”

She smiled at him. The girl blew on her coffee. In Kevin’s dreams, it looked like a flirty imitation of blowing him a kiss.

He smiled back. “I’m Kevin.”

She extended her hand. “Meg.” Her hand was warm and a little callused. No nail polish. Kevin thought he saw dust. He gently turned her hand over to look at it. She didn’t seem to mind. “Chalk dust? Do you teach?”

“Sculptor.”

“Really! You don’t have any pictures, do you?”

“As a matter of fact…” Meg took out her phone and waved through her photo library. Kevin leaned closer. Meg’s eyes were dark blue, pretty like marbles. It felt like they were on a date.

“Here we are.” She turned toward him. Their shoulders touched. Kevin’s pulse jumped. “This little turtle and log are going on an exhibit down by the river.”

“That’s really cute!”

She swiped to the next one. “This is a bust of my neighbor’s husband, for an anniversary gift. I had to make it from memory. She says it’s perfect. Here’s what he looks like in real life.”

Kevin held his breath. “Wow. That’s really amazing. You captured the look in his eyes. His bearing. The quiet… dignity.”

Meg smiled softly. “Thank you,” she said.

They were close enough to kiss each other, if they’d been boyfriend and girlfriend. Kevin’s heart skipped a beat.

“Can I buy you lunch?” he asked.

Photo “Seattle Smiles” by Santhosh Rajangam
Used under Creative Commons license
No changes were made to the photo.