Happy Friday, Readers! And Happy May! I thought now was as good a time as any to resume some Friday Fictioneers. Many thanks (as always) to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, our FF host, and to Karen Rawson, who submitted this week’s photo. Enjoy! (Even if it is a sad story.)
When Winter Comes
“Do you remember the first summer we came here?”
He looked encouragingly at his wife, the wind curling escaped wisps of her gray hair around her face. Wrinkles lined her eyes from years of smiling and laughing. His own wrinkles crinkled as he smiled at the woods before them. His wife was silent.
“We walked barefoot all the way down the creek,” he said. He squeezed his wife’s hand. “Do you remember?”
She looked at him. Her smile was bright, but her eyes held no light of remembrance. “I like you,” she said.
Happy belated Friday, Readers! Another week, come and gone. Now it’s time for Friday Fictioneers! Thanks to Rochelle as always, for hosting, and this week to Marie Gail Stratford for our photo. Enjoy this 100 word story! Today’s title and story was inspired by this hymn (Bring Flowers of the Rarest).
Flowers of the Fairest
“Yes, Sweetheart?” her mother answered, not pausing in washing the dishes.
She dutifully turned, hands still in the soapy water. A grinning, curly-haired five-year old girl held up a fistful of fresh roses for her mother to see. “I even used the scissors like you do, Mommy!”
The mother turned back to peer out of the kitchen window. Sure enough, her diligently cared for roses were picked clean. She lifted her eyes to heaven, took a deep breath, then turned back around with a smile. She grabbed a towel. “They’re beautiful, honey. Let’s get a vase.”
Their bed was cold when he woke, blearily looking at the clock. 4:08 A.M.
His wife was sitting bundled in a blanket in front of the patio door, gazing out at the snow. A mug of tea sat on the floor beside her, still faintly steaming. He came up and sat behind her. She leaned back so she was nestled between his legs and against his chest.
“Couldn’t sleep?” he murmured.
“I just wanted to watch the snow,” she whispered. “It’s beautiful.”
She smiled softly and nestled further into him, and they stayed that way until dawn.
He helped her carefully onto the dock, holding her waist to steady her as she stepped out of the canoe. The look on her face was like a storm cloud, dark and ready to burst. The corners of his mouth twitched.
She took a few steps and deliberately wrung out her shirt and hair, not saying a word. He took that opportunity to appreciate the glimpse of her bare stomach and the way her clothes clung to all her curves.
“Well, you did say you would probably tip us over.”
She glared and stomped her foot. “You pushed me in!”
Happy Friday, Readers! I have returned with a brand new Friday Fictioneers. As per usual, thanks is given to Rochelle for hosting this weekly prompt, and to J Hardy Carroll for providing this week’s photo. Enjoy this short story!
Hot and Sweet
“I’m a mess,” she laughed, holding up her sticky cotton candy fingers for him to see.
“When aren’t you?” His eyes crinkled with his smile. She laughed again, shrugging.
“Let’s get you cleaned up.”
Then her fingers were in his mouth. The tinkling carousel, the noisy crowds, the crackling country music blaring over the loudspeakers; all faded under the thunder of her heartbeat in her ears. Neither said a word until he finished. The hot July air around them thickened unbearably.
He spoke first. “Race to the fun slide?”
The tension broke. She grinned and took off running in answer.
Hello Readers! I’m back again. Sorry for my absence! I hope no one has been wasting away waiting for an update.
I’ve decided to return to writing Friday Fictioneers as individual little stories (keep an eye out for a new story soon!). But for those of you still interested in Nick and Emmeline’s story, I will try to keep up with it with its own little posts here and there. To prove it, here is a little update after our last adventure with the estranged couple, which can be read here.
Constantine is really shaking up Emmeline’s world, it seems.
The Web We Weave
Emmeline’s silent shock and look of fear vanished the instant the policeman turned away to keep other bystanders from advancing too close. Nick winced at the sound of breaking glass behind them as one of the windows in the apartment building burst and half a dozen firemen rushed forward, yelling as they attacked the flames. But Emmeline didn’t even turn around.
Nick studied her, tension radiating from every angle and in every line of her face. She was frowning and worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. He wanted to say something, but despite the multitude of questions that had plagued him since her declaration – “I’m a spy, Nicholas” – he could find nothing to say. Instead he just stood there on the sidewalk, watching her think.
At last she seemed to come to a decision. She released her bottom lip and her whole face relaxed into an emotionless calm. It was a look unlike any other he had seen on her lovely face, and it terrified him. “Em?” he said at last, still having nothing else to say.
She turned her cool gaze onto him. “I’ve been compromised,” she said in a tone of voice that matched her expressionless face. This terrified him even more. He didn’t know this cold, detached woman. This woman, he realized, he could easily believe to be a spy. “I need to return to my apartment,” she continued, seemingly oblivious to his inner turmoil.
“But Constantine already found you there!” said Nick with alarm. He had not forgotten her injury either, and anxiously looked to the place where he knew she was still heavily bandaged. “And you’re still hurt!”
Proving his point, a grimace of pain broke through her calm face. She quickly masked it again, but there was no hiding it from Nick. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Constantine proved his point. He can get to me. He’s isolated me. Now I just have to find out what he wants.”
“Well you’re not going alone,” Nick said firmly.
Emmeline looked at him in surprise, and for a brief moment he imagined her eyes softened when looking at him. He stepped up next to her and decidedly linked her arm through his. She leaned on him gratefully, and they set off back down the sidewalk at a much slower pace than they had come, looking for all the world like any other couple out for a walk.
They said nothing the entire way back to her apartment building. A brief wave of the hand was all they spared when Mary Ann loudly hallooed them from across the lobby before stepping into the elevator. Inside, ritzy jazz music playing over the speakers was jarring in Nick’s ears, but Emmeline appeared not to notice it. She stepped instantly forward the moment the doors opened onto her floor and made for her door.
Nick hastily moved up beside her to help her inside, but she entered before he could do anything.
The flowers were gone.
Nick’s eyes widened upon seeing the spotless apartment, not a single trace of the dozens of bouquets that had filled it earlier, not even a faint smell in the air. He glanced at Emmeline, who showed not the slightest surprise at the missing flowers. She grimaced again and limped forward towards the table. Instantly Nick was there to pull out a chair.
“For God’s sake, Em, sit down and let me help you.” He helped her gently into the seat.
“Don’t swear,” Emmeline scolded, suddenly sounding like her old self. It was such a welcome change that Nick smiled.
“I’m sorry, Emmeline.”
Suddenly recollecting the prescription he had picked up earlier, he pulled the crumpled bag out of his pocket. “Here,” he said, breaking the seal and twisting off the cap. “Take some for your pain. And don’t tell me it’s not bad, because I can see that it is. I’ll get some water.”
Emmeline said nothing. Obediently she swallowed the two pills, gulped down with a glass of water.
Constantine’s messages were still on the table. With a grim air, she leaned over and picked them up and immediately noticed a new one tucked into the middle of the pile.
Nick was hovering anxiously at her elbow. There would be no way to read it without him seeing. “Nicholas?” she said.
He was instantly attentive.”Yes?”
“Could you…” she trailed off for a moment, unsure what request to make. “Could you go into my room and get my tan sweater? I’ve got a chill. All this excitement hasn’t been good for me, I think.” She blushed, as though she were embarrassed to send him into her bedroom. Nick said nothing, just moved towards the hall to her room. Inside, Emmeline cringed at the blatant lie and wondered at his quiet compliance – the day had been nothing but a whirlwind of strange events and her behavior, she knew, had been completely out of character.
The moment he disappeared in to her bedroom, Emmeline pulled out the new message. It was in a pale blue envelope. Without hesitating, she broke the seal and pulled out the card inside. It was a thick heavy paper. Her heart leapt to her throat despite her efforts to remain calm.
The only thing written on the card was an address, and below that the words, “When you’re ready, my dear.”
Happy Friday Readers! I’m popping in to give you a long overdue Friday Fictioneers! We’re returning to the present with Nick and Emmeline and the startling revelation that Em is a spy. The tensions are only going to keep building for now. Enjoy!
It didn’t compute. The sweet, kind, adorably girlish at times woman he had come to know and love could not be a spy.
She’d take him to meet her CIA contact, she told him.
They rounded the corner. Emmeline froze suddenly. The street was covered in firetrucks, ambulances, and police. An apartment building was engulfed in flames. “Stay back!” ordered a policeman in a bright vest.
“But my uncle lives in that building!” Emmeline said with real fear in her voice.
“I’m sorry Miss,” he said. “No one made it out alive.”