My winning 2015 Flash Fiction story is published by IndiesUnlimited.com in both Kindle and paperback format (black and white and full-color options).
The Kindle version is in Kindle Unlimited, so if you use that option, feel free to read!
I sipped the cup of tea, staring across the room at the letter I’d dropped on the table.
$25,000 is a lot of money. And that’s just an advance?
But, in my mind, those dating shows were cheesy. Who was that desperate? Well, I’d been that desperate and pimped myself out on a dating site, so what was the difference?
I pulled a graham cracker from the sleeve and ate mindlessly. Horrible habit, but the guy I’d started seeing didn’t seem to mind my lack of willpower, and he didn’t mind paying for dinner at an upscale restaurant here in Kansas City either. My perfect man, until he said he was a Cubs fan.
Ugh…that was my designated first sign of crazy in a man.
But this letter couldn’t actually be for me. I hadn’t applied, I hadn’t auditioned, and I hadn’t been accepted. Some other Twyla Flanderstein was fated to go to this event.
How many Twyla Flandersteins could there be in this world?
I ate another graham cracker, and as I was chewing my phone buzzed next to the letter. Just being within ten feet of the stack of papers was causing heart palpitations, nausea, and I was pretty sure being up close to it was causing a rash from my nipples to my hoohah.
That show wouldn’t want me anyway! They were looking for perfection.
Ethan: Want to meet for dinner at The Flat Room?
I swallowed the dry lump of mush in my mouth and washed it down with a long drink of tea.
A martini would be great right now. Like a hundred martinis…
Ethan was cute, sweet, and the kitty in my pants was meowing like she needed a good meal, too, even though we’d never made it to bedroom dessert.
Twyla: Be there at 7.
He’d let it slip that his place wasn’t far from the restaurant, one of my favorites in the area. Conversation had flowed so easily with him on our three dates.
Could that even happen with a stranger in front of a dozen cameras and hundreds of people at a remote resort off of Indonesia?
Who am I kidding, I don’t even own a bathing suit!
I hopped in the shower, my job as a preschool teacher meant great hours, little take-home work, and I got to meld young minds of the next generation of losers. I was realistic, if they learned their ABCs and not to pick their noses in public, I’d done my job. Today had been a failure. Paint in my hair, one threw up on my new shoes, and a booger was smeared across my chest.
Realistically, not much hope for the future.
I called for a cab. I’d normally bus it, but tonight seemed important and urgent, and I wanted to be there on time.
And there he was. Tall, not super tall, but way past handsome. His bright smile coordinated with his dress shirt, and he’d pulled on his tie knot…and unbuttoned his top button. Damn sexy. And I wondered if tonight would turn extra special.
$25,000…could be an extra special addition to my bank account.
“You look upset or anxious. What’s wrong?” he asked with furrowed brows before kissing my cheek. And he could read me. I’d forgive the Cubs fan thing.
Would I be comparing every contestant to him?
“Just hungry, I think.” The pack of graham crackers sat heavy in my stomach, so the thought of eating wasn’t appetizing, but I wanted to be near him.
Near him, not away…but, $25,000 and maybe more?
When did life become where money trumped finding love? And why did people start getting paid to find love? And wasn’t that prostitution?
The conversation was stilted by my rambling thoughts. He stopped talking, and I didn’t know how long had past before I noticed.
“Hey, Twyla, it’s okay if you’re not into this anymore?” He waved to the waiter. “I get it, things change.”
I sobered up, even though I didn’t have a drop of alcohol in my system.
Am I going to let a great guy just leave?
I closed my eyes, willing for an answer to come to me. “I came home and found a letter proposing a dating show on my doorstep and I’m the headliner. They’re offering $25,000 and I’m not sure that I can pass the opportunity up, even if it was meant for someone else, that’s a lot of money and I have bills.”
“Well, that’s an excuse I’ve never heard before.” He stood and dropped bills on the table. “Good luck.”
It was clear I’d lost him in my need to explain what wasn’t explainable anyway. Excuses weren’t how to build a relationship.
Cubs fans had heard every excuse anyway.
I followed him outside. Without a word, he put me in a cab and sent me on my way.
No dessert tonight.
The letter hadn’t disappeared. In fact, it glared at me every time I walked through the kitchen. The producers had given me 72 hours to respond. I was well into the third day, Saturday.
I decided watching paper from across the room was a horrible waste of time.
It isn’t moving, so I should.
I packed a picnic lunch and headed to my favorite park down by the Plaza. The place where Ethan and I had our first date. It was a long walk, but I needed the fresh air and miles for thinking.
My favorite spot under a maple tree was available. I pulled my eReader out and started a new story, hoping to get lost in someone else’s dream.
My phone buzzed.
Ethan: I love it when your hair fans out like that.
I sat up.
Twyla: Where are you?
Ethan: Right beside you, but I’m hoping I might be in your heart.
He plopped down on the blanket. “So, what’ll it be? That love show or let me show you how love really happens.”
Love always trumps money.
Roark Evans was his name and I was pretty sure all-night horizontal fun was his favorite game. A player for sure. No need to go there. But then I remembered how his ass caught my eye while we processioned out of the wedding. Damn! High, tight, and perky were never more useful words.
The sparkling martini he’d purchased reminded me of the aqua-color of my bridesmaid dress. In the taffeta monstrosity, with my pasty white skin, I’d taken on the appearance of a glob of multi-colored toothpaste, topped by a bouffant coif brought back from 60s hair hell. I was pretty sure my best friend had done everything in her power to make her bridal party look as hideous as possible so she appeared to be the vibrant and glowing princess bride. I’d even woken up with a huge zit. She was sinister.
But the wedding had brought me to this moment and this choice. Ultra cute guy or go to bed?
Boring was my middle name.
I slid from the barstool, carrying the hook-up gift to the booth where Mr. Perky wore a cocky smirk. “The oldest trick in the book. I would have thought you’d have some new game, Roark.”
“I stand by the classic moves, and it worked. Didn’t it?”
I sipped the concoction that not only look like but also tasted like toothpaste. I sputtered through the burn. “What the hell is this?”
He examined the drink menu. “It’s a Tiki-Taki Tidal Wave.”
“Why would you ever believe I’d drink this?” I wiped blue goo from my chin.
“What were you drinking?”
He raised his eyebrows and his hand to the bartender. “Two glasses of whiskey, please.”
I slid into the booth on the same side as Roark. “Well, that was a better move, but I’d like to think it was only a sample of your game book.”
His dark eyes narrowed. “And what game do you want to play, Hannah?” His fingers trailed along my arm as he wrapped his arm around me.
I took a long sip of the delivered whiskey in effort to mull the question in my mind. Was I really going to be as bold as I’d dreamed?
Roark raised his glass of whiskey in a toast. “Silence shouts but drinking screams.”
Ugh. A man who examined my every move and motivation? Didn’t need that. But I could imagine us not talking and only acting. Those plump lips. Those midnight eyes. That sinewy physique.
I sipped my whiskey to embolden my courage. “Here’s the deal, I’m not looking for a meaningful intimate conversation and I’m not interested in discussing the world’s problems. All I’m truly looking for is one night of no-holds barred, toe curling sex.” My hand shook as I lowered the glass to the table. I tugged on one end of his tie, either the alcohol or my womanly instinct finally taking over. “This will come in handy tonight.” I slipped the silk through the collar of his dress shirt.
His dark hand grasped his glass just a little tighter. “Check, please,” he called out and the bartender chuckled.
The hotel was a boutique version of romance overkill and Dr. Evans had procured himself what was just below the bridal suite. I slipped off my heels and sank my toes into a Persian rug that was probably made from kitten fur.
“The groom’s family paid for it, but left early and offered it to me.” He slipped off his suit jacket.
His cologne wafted into the air when his jacket landed on the end of the bed. His eyes raked my body. A slow winding shiver snaked through my body, and my breath exited like a long hiss.
“I think you wanted this?” He dangled the silk necktie he pulled from his pant pocket in my face.
I snatched at the fabric. He pulled it away, only to wrap an end around one of my wrists.
“Oh, not the way you thought this would go?” His plump ruby lips twisted in the corners as he tried not to smirk.
Boldly, I leaned forward and brushed my lips across the opening in his shirt, flicking my tongue out to taste him. Salted caramel, powdered with bitter cocoa masked the flavor of the martini on my palate. “You taste like a gourmet dessert.”
“Let’s see how you taste.” He lifted me.
This was happening and I wasn’t turning back.
I wound my legs around his waist. His Adonis muscles created a ledge and my body clenched with expectation. There had never been a better place for my lips than on his. I savored the finely aged whiskey on his tongue, with a touch of that caramel that radiated from him. Creamy, luscious, decadent.
He pulled away with hooded eyes. “Yesterday, I wanted to tear that ugly dress off of you to see all your porcelain skin in its glory, Hannah. As much as I want to, I don’t think I can do this slowly. There’s something about you that steals my control.”
No man had ever expressed his need so clearly.
I grabbed the opening of his dress shirt and spread my arms quickly. Buttons pinged through the air like tiny white fireworks.
“Then don’t do it slow, Roark. Do it fast and hard, but it’s only one night, nothing more.”
Row 2, Seat B.
I lifted my lightened suitcase into the overhead bin. I’d left the horrible dress in the trash back at the hotel. It belonged there. I’d upgraded to first class. Last night convinced me that living life was important.
And damn had it been a convincing night.
“Excuse me, could you get me two glasses of your best brand of whiskey.”
I stilled. The timbre of the voice was as smooth as the drink I was about to enjoy.
“One night wasn’t enough, Hannah.”
“You know this is kind of stalkerish, right?”
“Just another play from my gamebook, sweetheart.”
The Breakup Text
I’d read it seven times…make that eight…nine…ten times.
Four iconic words on my phone screen.
That’s what we do best. We communicate. We work things out. We have a pact that we won’t go to bed mad. We have respect and connection.
Who does this?
Who sends a cryptic text after their love has been out of town for a week? Who makes my cab ride home from the airport a miserable thirty-two minutes of hell?
My soon-to-be ex-boyfriend is who.
The ocean spray dusting the air, which I usually used as an indicator that I was home, wasn’t enough to change my deteriorating thoughts. If anything the smell flavored my feelings with a caustic briny tang. The purple and pink sunset radiated a happiness that I would ignore in reverence to my breaking heart. A jumble of memories pulled my shoulders forward and I wiped a tear.
Time spent devoted to a man who can’t wait until I get home to make me miserable. “College sweethearts who couldn’t make it for the long haul,” that’s what our families would say. “Saw it coming,” was what our friends would say, even if they couldn’t possibly have. “Too bad, but there are other fish in the sea,” was what the world would say.
Nothing they would say would make me feel better. Nothing would take away the ache already pounding my heart like the ocean waves against the rocks.
I’d given him everything. My body. My heart. My love. My passion. My devotion. And I swore I had the same from him.
Every special moment was all lies. Now we were the butt of some joke between him and his buddies. I’d felt worshipped. But now I was like a piece of garbage waiting to be discarded to the curb.
That last birthday party he threw for me. That surprise trip he took me on to Vegas for our last anniversary. That last Valentine’s Day where he told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, but he was just waiting for the right time. I guess rest of his life only meant six months, three days, and eighteen hours cause I was mad enough to kill him the closer I got the apartment.
The clock ticked down. Ten, nine, eight…
We’d been together almost three million minutes and now these last few were the ones I would never forget.
My heart cracked into three million pieces.
We were meant to be together.
I paid the cab driver and climbed the two flights of steps. He normally met me at the ground level and carried my bags.
Not ever again.
I opened the door.
“Will you marry me?” was what he asked.
Her laugh broke the silence.
That she didn’t believe him didn’t surprise him. That she’d become a laugh-machine in efforts to mock his announcement did.
“I’m serious,” he reaffirmed his announcement.
“Oh, you look serious, but what you’re saying makes no sense.”
“What part? That I’m dating my English professor?”
“You know what part! That he’s a man. You’re not”—she whispered as if the other nine people seated around the table wouldn’t hear—“you know.”
“Yes, mother I’m aware of his gender and yes, mother”—he lowered his voice with the same condescension she’d offered him—“I am gay.”
Her chortling ended and she threw her napkin on the table. “Apologies, my friends. My son seems to have a need to embarrass me tonight. Not uncommon, but definitely unexpected.” In an established indication of his needed presence, she motioned her red tipped nail toward the den.
The French doors closed and trapped them inside what was probably bigger than a majority of homes in the city. Her old money traditions and extravagant living never impressed him. Perhaps that was his father’s personality coming through and he was sure that fueled her hatred toward the man.
And possibly her own child.
“Fulton James Wiley! I don’t know what you’re trying to pull here, but I am not happy.”
“It is not my job to make you happy, Lillian Gale Thurston-Wiley-Rockefeller-Warner.”
She insisted everyone call her by the narcissistic pedigree of who’s-who of marital legacy. Not one name after her first husband had ever acknowledged his presence.
The roll of her name from his mouth clenched his jaw. “The only thing I’m pulling here is finally being myself. I have found a man I care about and he cares about me. I was only letting you know, not asking for approval.”
She waved his declaration away. “It’s a phase. You’re just living out some fantasy.” She ran a finger over the bookcase to ensure the housecleaning staff was doing their job, then turned to him and her lips drew to a thin lined smile. “Fine. But I don’t want this news in the papers. You stay indoors and live out your little pretend life, you do not do that out in the open.”
He reached for the door handle. “It’s not pretend and Kelsen and I will live however we choose.”
Fulton stepped off the elevator and his feet dragged to the door in the left corner. In twenty years he’d never talked to his mother like that and certainly never walked out on her. The last made him shiver.
Just like your father.
That must be what she was thinking.
The echoing sound of the doorbell crept under the door, then footsteps nearing, until the handle turned and he inhaled a deep breath to at least seem okay.
“Hey, babe, I didn’t think…” A normally absent line appeared in between the two emerald eyes. “Come in. Guess it didn’t go well.”
“Understatement of the century.”
“I wish you would have let me come with you.” He slipped Fulton’s coat down his arms and hung it in the closet.
Fulton rested his body against Kelsen’s, using him as an upright pillow. Those long arms he loved wrapped around him and guided him closer.
“Fulton, why did you fall in love with me?” Kelsen asked the question daily and always received a new answer. Fulton loved finding new reasons.
“I couldn’t not fall in love with you. I knew we’d fit together. And when you joked about old money being printed with excessive ink, I was yours. You just knew me.”
A hand slipped into Fulton’s and guided him to the couch. The apartment was modest, but infinitely homier than anything he’d ever lived in.
“She said that we’re ‘a phase’. That I’m in ‘a phase’. Am I a phase?” Fulton collapsed against Kelsen’s broad chest. “Feeling her disgust just fill the room, Kel, it was smothering.”
“Babe, she’ll come around, and honestly, if she doesn’t, you have your dad. You can lean on him.” He kissed the crown of curly brown locks. “And you can lean on me.” Pulling him closer, Fulton wanted to absorb the support, the heart of the man he loved.
“Her laugh keeps echoing through my brain. It was maniacal.” He remembered the shrill and calculating timbre. “Evil.”
Fingers lifted his chin. “Is her approval important to you?”
“No.” He was solid with the word, but his heart sped a little saying it. “This is just so new to me.”
“I know, and that’s why I told you that when it comes to you, my patience is infinite.”
Fulton moved to face Kelsen, planting an arm on one side of his body and grasping the back of his neck with the other.
He moved his lips to Kelsen’s ear. “I don’t deserve you.”
Kelsen chuckled. “You deserve a hell of a lot more in my mind, but I try to be better for you every day.”
“That’s so hot.” Fulton mumbled while nibbling delicately on his earlobe in a way that drove Kelsen crazy. “The next time I hear my mother’s crazy laugh in my ear, I’m going to substitute your laugh.”
Kelsen picked Fulton up and laid him on the cushions under him. He kissed him until both of them were chasing each other’s breaths with heavy gasps.
“I’ll be your family, Fulton. I’ll be whatever you need, because I need you more than any breath I’ve ever taken.”
“That’s not even possible.”
Kelsen held his breath and Fulton laughed, until he started to turn red, then Fulton pulled him back to him for a long kiss, making sure it encouraged Kelsen to inhale deeply.
Their bodies instinctively knew each other and how to please each other in a way that nature couldn’t have designed, it was supernatural in so many ways. Fulton appreciated the otherworldly nature of their connection as their worlds collided.
This was home. No matter what happened.
He was wanted.
Short Story Flash Fiction #2
My job at my father’s extreme adventure company was to depict heart pounding experiences through photos, so he could seduce or coerce—there was a fine line between the two—people into wanting to be dare devils, like him. This adventure fit that bill and every snap of my camera had me rethinking Dad’s offer to pay for an icy plunge. I had declined because my mother would freak out, even worse than she had finding out about this trip.
A siren call of the icy water warmed my body in anticipation. Braving the elements and being trapped under the ice, I had to do it. After flashing my PADI Master Diver card, I was suited up, tanked up and ready to go in twenty minutes.
Adventure was in my blood. My father’s would be thrilled to hear my decision. Mother not so much.
Taking that step off of the ice, the suit crushed to my body. The weight of the water a giant hug, comforting and surrounding me in existence. As I drifted under the ice, staring up at opalescent frozen white above my head illuminated by the sun of the day, I remembered our last interaction.
Her shuffling feet on the carpet instigated a large zing of static electricity to pass between us when she grabbed my arm and stopped me at the door. “Tessa, you do this and I promise, I will never forgive that man.”
The heated jolt only awakened my frustration and resolve; it didn’t subdue me into her way of thinking. Never would.
“Mom, get real, forgiving dad is never going to happen anyway. Becca will be home soon. If you want to wait in our apartment, you can share with her what a horrible daughter I am.”
“I don’t think you’re horrible. I think that father of yours is—”
“Goodbye, Mom.” I didn’t need anymore of the drivel that only hurt me and never healed her.
After their divorce, I’d quickly come to the conclusion that a heart would never mend with only callous revulsion feeding through a person’s veins. Why she couldn’t move on, after twenty-five years of marriage and three grown children, I had no idea. Dad seemed to make an effort to be content, while she tried to bring everyone down to her mostly miserable state.
There were happy times. I remembered them.
Nearing the end of my dive, I decided I wouldn’t let her coat me in her icy unhappiness anymore. The choice made me feel light as air and I exploded from the water, only to find one of the models holding my camera and snapping pictures.
My subzero liberation turned out to be the picture my father used in his marketing materials and I accompanied him with a group tour back to that same place the next year for a dive with him smiling at my side. My mother was emotional frost for a very long time, but someday our relationship would thaw.
Indies Unlimited- Rock Climbing Flash Fiction
“Um…Wendy?” Jason’s teal eyes squinted from his position ten feet above me. “Do you need help?”
“No, I got it.” I squeaked as my left foot inched toward the tip of the green hold. I clenched the dried-yellow-Play-Doh-looking chunk under my right hand tighter and readjusted my left hand’s grip on a blue hold. There was a high probability I’d be forced to dangle like a kitten in a poster that reads, “Hang in there!” Except those kittens, with their bulging eyes and tense abdomens, probably appeared calm in comparison to the intense panic I exhibited.
I closed my eyes, gulping a couple of shallow breaths. When I reopened someone was right beside me. Jason.
“You’ve never done this before, right?”
I cringed. “Never. I wanted to impress you, but like always I messed up.”
He reached out, his warm hand covering mine. “I’m already impressed or I wouldn’t have invited you.”
That was what I needed to hear. “Help me, please,” I pleaded.
“I’ll talk you down.”
Every hand movement and foot placement he suggested was perfect and unwavering. Just like Jason. With our feet firmly on solid ground, he unhooked our safety lines.
The remaining fear, injected with adrenaline, quaked my body in tiny surges.
Jason rubbed his hands up and down my arms. “So, no rock wall climbing?”
His soft lips grazed mine. “That’s okay. Maybe bungee jumping?”
I giggled and rocked my forehead against his chest. “Not a chance!”
Occasionally, lying had definite benefits.