Flash Fiction Challenge – Part II (Continuing Someone Else’s Story)
Last week, I wrote Part I of a collaborative four-part story in response to this challenge. Today, as per Chuck Wendig’s instructions, I’m writing a Part II to a story lisboeta1 (sorry, I don’t know her real name) started last week. I’ve copied it here for easy reference and made a few minor style edits, but please go check out the rest of her work for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
“Holy crap! It’s him,” I heard my inner voice yell out. I was sitting in a small booth in my favorite coffee shop doing what I do best, drinking coffee and reading. As my eyes wandered from the pages of the book to the crowd gathering by the registers I saw him. He hadn’t changed much in the last twenty years. If anything he seemed to have improved like a good wine. I noticed that he was even taller than the last time I had seen him all those years ago. Thick, blondish, curly hair still framed his handsome face, and his slanted almond-shaped eyes looked just like I remembered them. Not the skinny, slightly awkward young man he had been at 18, his well-toned arms and chest now stretched the black plain t-shirt he was wearing. He had obviously just come from the gym, sweatpants hanging low on his tight hips and sneakers on his feet. A smile crept up to my lips; I remembered him saying that his mom used to tell him that when he died he would die standing up because of his giant feet. God! I remembered our conversations as it was only yesterday.
My eyes went to his hands, big and masculine, and a shiver went through me. I remember well the feeling of those hands on my body. I was so young back then. Still, I was about two years older than him, an “older woman.” For all intents and purposes I was an adult but I’d still fallen hard for the young man he was then. The first time I laid eyes on him, walking across the hotel atrium, I was lost. My heart fluttered every time I saw him and my legs turned to Jell-O every time we spoke. Ours was a whirlwind romance that lasted a few days but left a soft spot in my heart for 20 years. I always thought of James as the one who got away. And now, there he was, a mere few feet away from me, and my heart was doing that familiar flip-floppy thing it had always done in his presence. What was he doing here? More to the point; what was I going to do?
The line was slowly moving forward and I knew I had to act fast. I’d rehearsed this moment in my mind for the better part of two decades, hoping against hope that I’d see him again, and although the passage of time had not been unkind to me, I felt awkward, hesitant. I’d come through failed relationships, drug addiction, self-loathing and a minor health scare, finally finding my strength, my voice, my grace at midlife. I was wiser, rounder, softer and grayer now, and happier than I’d been in longer than I could remember. Fate had brought James back into my life, and I’d be damned if I was going to let the opportunity to reconnect with him slip away.
We’d spent our last night together in a tangle of naked limbs and bedclothes, drinking rum punch and watching old movies in my hotel room. We’d discovered that we both had a fondness for “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” laughing and reciting lines from the movie as it played in the wee hours of the morning, until he grew suddenly serious, catching my face in his hands and holding my gaze before crushing my lips with his, the intensity of his hunger matching my own.
“You will always be the Marion to my Indy,” he’d whispered against my hair as our passions cooled and sleep overtook us. When I woke up a few hours later, he was gone.
I slid from the booth, tucked an errant curl behind my ear and walked up beside him. “James Appleton. I always knew some day you’d come walking back through my door.”
His golden hazel eyes caught mine and he smiled at the movie reference. “Hello, Karel,” he said, pulling me into his embrace. I stood on tiptoe to buss his cheek, but he turned at the last moment so that our lips met in a gentle kiss. A palpable tingle passed through me as we touched, and I could tell he felt it too. The hiss of the espresso machine, the soft jazz wafting over the PA system, the murmur of the other customers in line, it all slipped away as we stood there, lost in each other’s gaze.
“It is so good to see you. What on earth are you doing here, in Southern California?”
He pulled away slightly, but we stood close together, almost touching. “I was just about to ask you the same thing? Do you live around here?”
“Yes, just up the hill. I’ve been haunting the back booth here most mornings since this place opened.”
He’d reached the front of the line and reached into his back pocket to retrieve his wallet. I noticed that he wore no wedding band and my heart skipped a little. Could it be that he was single? This was looking better and better.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
“I’d like that. They pull a phenomenal latte here. Classic Italian style, not one of those sugary, coffee-flavored things.”
“Sounds great. Two lattes, please,” he said to the server, hardly taking his eyes off me.
We retrieved our drinks and moved to the back of the shop where my things were still spread all over the booth. “God, it’s great to see you. It’s been what, twenty years?” he said, settling his long frame into the seat across from me.
“Yes, almost. March 1996. The Hyatt Brittania in Grand Cayman. You were the divemaster on my snorkling trip to Stingray City.”
“That’s right! Back in my beach bum days.” His smile crinkled the corners of his eyes and he took a sip of his latte, catching my gaze over the top of his cup. The touch of deviltry that flashed there hadn’t changed with the passage of time. I felt my breath catch and my heart pound again. Forty-years old and still getting fluttery over handsome boys, I thought. But James was no boy. He’d matured into an incredibly good-looking man. How could he not be married, or at least in a relationship?
Emboldened by his gaze, I plunged ahead. If the past twenty years had taught me anything, it was to carpe the hell out of each diem. “So, what are you doing in SoCal? Are you living here now?”
He took another sip of his latte, his gaze on his cup this time. “I just finished some work in town and I’m waiting for my next assignment.”
“Really? What do you do?”
He looked out the window briefly, considering. After a beat, he met my gaze again. “Executive protection,” he said, a little too casually, as if trying to gauge my reaction.
“What, like a bodyguard?”
“Something like that.”
“Interesting. What led you into that line of work?”
He glanced out the window again, uncomfortable with my questions. Suddenly, he grabbed my hand and stood up, pulling me to my feet as well. “Look, I may not have much time, and I know this is a little awkward, but do you want to go somewhere … um … you know … private?”
A tiny flicker of doubt pricked at the edge of my mind, but I pushed it aside. The thought of making love to him again far outweighed any inkling I had that something wasn’t quite right about the situation. I turned to face him, pressing the length of my body against his and snaking my arms up and around his neck. “I thought you’d never ask,” I murmured as our lips met again, more urgently than before.
As the kiss ended, I pulled away slightly, tilting my head up to look up into his eyes. “We can go back to my place. It’s just up the hill a couple of blocks from here.” I gathered up my things and followed him out the door, taking his hand again and leading him toward my cottage.