Friday, July 29, 2011

Free Fiction Friday - a short short story

This is a short flash fiction piece I wrote a year or so ago.  It hasn't found a home and since I've been lax about updating the blog the last couple of days, I thought I'd share it here for Free Fiction Friday....I hope you enjoy - it's sweet romance without the heat.

Coffee and a bagel; that was the morning routine, each dawn without fail Nikki made her way through the city streets to the small café.  She, who grew up running barefoot through green pastures, now traveled the asphalt jungle as if it were her native habitat.

     Most days she bought a paper, usually a Post or the Times because she was a city person now, not a hillbilly, not any of those names they called her when she arrived, suitcase in hand from a Greyhound Bus.  

     Nikki lost the twang, took classes in enunciation, learned to dress Boho style, and aped the fast-paced walk that the New York women seemed born to make, that twitching, switching, witch walk in high heels over grates and down sidewalks.

     Now she looked like them, skinny past slender, hair short and wild, chic make-up, too much perfume, the right clothes that back home folks would have thought came out of the Goodwill store, probably.   No navy blue starched slacks, no neat Ship And Shore misses blouse for her, no sensible shoes, but open toed sandals even in winter.

     Sometimes, maybe when she caught a stray scent of flowers from a blooming window box or heard the twang of some poor new arrival or saw someone with a head scarf or smelled biscuits baking, she felt just homesick enough to buy a paper from her home state, not from any of the Podunk Ozark towns, the wide spots in the road but one of the big cities, KC or maybe St. Louis.

     Even though those cities had nothing on New York, couldn’t even begin to imagine life in the Village, they had once been the heart of her dream.   Back in high school, silly, stupid, meaningless high school, that American ritual of mating and dating, she thought she would go to Kansas City and maybe draw for Hallmark.   That had been a mundane, middle class kind of dream and she got over it, like an illness.

     Then she toyed with going to St. Louis, did go with her boyfriend, that shy, tow-headed, blue-eyed darling farm boy who had a team of Clydesdales and was in FFA, Future Farmers of America.  His old beat-up Ford truck had a bumper sticker that read “No Farmers, No Food”.   So quaint, so provincial, she remembered and he was so gauche.

     He didn’t like St. Louis, hated the tall buildings downtown and wouldn’t even go up in the Gateway Arch.   He thought they might get mugged when they walked along Laclede’s Landing.  After that trip, he went back to the farm, that heritage, Century Farm, in his family a hundred years and she saved her money, and then left for New York.  

     Now she dated men, not farm boys, men who drove Porsches and didn’t sit out on the porch in the cool of a summer evening.

     However, one morning, Nikki opened up the Kansas City Star, read about a farmer in an accident at the American Royal stock show, saw his name Tommy Doyle, that name she loved once, in black and white and everything shifted.

     Those narrow streets, those Brownstone buildings were strange and she wanted to go home, back to Missouri, back to him.

     She left the paper open to the page, dashing home to get her purse, pack a bag, and go to the bus station.

     Going home, paper left behind, city girl no more.

     Kansas City seemed small but she took a taxi to St. Luke’s but when she walked through the doors, she felt shy and almost bolted, ran back to the Big Apple.

     Nikki didn’t, though.  She got his room number from a volunteer wearing a pink smock and took the elevator up.  She walked down the long corridor, heart thumping, hands cold, and came to the room; his room, Tommy’s room.

     If she took time to think she would never do it so she pushed open the door and walked inside.

     He looked up, pale faced, with one arm in a cast, a bandage wrapped around his head.   For a very long second, he did nothing and time stopped until he held out his hand to her.

     Nikki crossed the room and took it, his flesh warm and solid.

     “Hi, Tommy.”

     “Nikki.” He said her name like a prayer or like it was something very precious. “I wondered if you might come.  Are you home for a visit?”

     Tears blinded her vision as she shook her head.

     “No, I’m home to stay, for good.  I’m back.”

     He smiled.  “I’m glad.  What changed your mind?”

     She had to say it and she did,

     “I realized how much I love you.”

     Tommy’s eyes filled with tears and he squeezed her hand hard.

     “It’s about time.” He said, in a husky whisper. “I love you too.”


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