Here's a little romantic flash fiction story, less than 1800 words, that I penned about two people who share a secret.....I call it "That Woman"....
by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
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by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
He sat upon an upturned milk crate left by the delivery truck and lit a cigarette, the familiar tobacco calming in the still dusk. Inside the restaurant, everything remained hectic but outside he savored the quiet in these few moments. Somewhere, probably in the weed choked ditch he caught the sweet scent of honeysuckle. That summoned images of home, far distant, on the other side of the world but the aroma bridged both years and miles. Although he heard cars pass on the busy thoroughfare in front, even picked up on the sound of trucks on the highway farther away, horns that honked and the occasional sound of an airplane overhead, he marveled at the overall quiet. On the horizon, the rugged foothills of the ancient Ozark Mountains, foreign to him but still lovely in a heartbreaking, soul moving fashion, rose toward the sky.
Although this was not the tranquil hush of the forests, ancient woodlands remembered from his own land, it served and salved his soul. Between his boyhood, longer ago than he liked to count, and the present, Aleksander experienced unrest, even violence. Here, people lived with a complacent expectation there would be both peace and plenty. If he could have that, he would never ask for anything more.
Among his customers, they all greeted him; called him by name, even shook his hand but few knew him. It was not within their ken to know. He exhaled smoke as he contemplated the faces, the regular diners who made his living possible. Most offered a limited familiarity but kept a safe distance. In the small town, tucked away into the edge of the Ozarks, someone with an accent, a foreigner still seemed strange. Some of these people rooted five, six generations deep in these hills but he came from far away. His ways were not theirs but there, where he began, his family had their own deep history.
Just as they might not understand that he craved nothing more than harmony, a simple life lived without poverty he did not always fathom the people here. As long as he had food to eat, shelter against the night, clothes to put upon his back and safety, it satisfied his needs. To covet more might be too great to ask so he remained content.
The locals, though, most of them, needed more. They flocked to the giant discount retailer on the edge of town, a place he visited out of need, not want. He never lingered but he saw those who did, trundling their laden shopping carts through the aisles adding more, wanting more even than that.
Having been hungry, he would never understand the diners who left half or more of their meal on the plate. Aleksander would never comprehends why some people thought that treating others in a petty, small way made them large when instead it just shrunk them to size.
Among those who came to eat his American cheeseburgers, his diner style breakfasts, and his few dishes with a hint of his own homeland, he counted a few who, like him, were different. These he treated like honored guests, when time permitted, and he saw respect reflected back from their faces. To most of his customers, because he did any task that needed to be done, he was just another mule, harnessed in the traces, working. But he was much more if just to her. He seldom said her name because he didn’t need it; she was all he wanted, what he required.
That woman, she caught his eye from the first time he saw her. She possessed an unusual air and she wasn’t like the rest. The woman spoke more than one language although not his milk tongue but she understood some just as he understood her. She talked to her children in a polyglot that they grasped and she stood out, a mink among the foxes.
Her blue eyes held his and she did not look away, unafraid and intent. She gazed as if she knew his soul and when he looked at her, he did. Until he first saw her, he did not know she existed but that first glance, he recognized her. Whatever this bond, this instant thing might be, he knew it to be mutual. When he learned that the children she sometimes brought into the restaurant were her own, that the man her husband, it did not matter. Deep within, on a level that transcended time and space, she belonged to him and he was hers.
They might never advance past the eye contact that spoke volumes but if they had no more than this in a lifetime, there would be forever.
Aleksander knew this and so did she.
He thought about her as he smoked, the grey spirals wafting into the heavy humid summer air before they vanished. He knew her fragrance, not just perfume but her natural aroma and he loved her hair, often pinned into a tight bun but sometimes worn down, streaming down shoulders and back in a wild tumble. That her hair held more than a few strands of white mattered nothing to him; he wasn’t young either. In their youth, in the flower of their twenties, if he could have possessed her then, they would have been like a young king and queen.
Age did not change that.
Time would not either.
As Aleksander recalled little details about her, the full breasts, the mature body that had borne children and showed the wear, her rich voice, alto not soprano, and her laughter, a full-bodied sound that infused him with delight like a fine wine, she came across the parking lot, her step light and lithe. He saw her but he did not move, remained in place as if he were a statue made of granite. He waited and she came to him.
She approached from behind and although he expected her, when she laid her hands upon his shoulders, familiar as if by right, he felt something like electricity thrumming through him. She stood for a few minutes, just touching him and between them, that silent understanding they had from that first day of notice, filling them up like water renewing a dry cistern.
He finished smoking and sunk the butt into a can of sand there for just that purpose. Then without turning he reached behind to put his left hand over hers. He couldn’t see her face but he thought she smiled. Then, although she’d touched him before, she put her other hand against his cheek.
“I thought of you,” he said in his voice, accented still after years in this America, decades in which he never picked up a hint of the Ozark twang. “Then you came.”
“I thought you needed me,” she answered in that husky voice, “and I wanted you.”
He did not ask where her husband was at or her children. They were not infants but almost grown. In his world, no man asked questions about a miracle – you accepted it and enjoyed instead.
“I do,” he told her, “Come and sit with me.”
He made room for her on the Hiland milk crate, a red plastic cube that should have been too small but it wasn’t, not for the two of them. She settled onto it and they sat, against each other, easy and at ease. He put his arm around her shoulders and she tucked into him, nestled against him. They fit like a foot into a tailored shoe.
Aleksander felt the taut tension in her body relax and when she sighed, he smiled. Whatever brought her, she shut out the rest of the world to be with him in the here and now.
They sat together, their silence full with camaraderie. No words needed to be spoken as they enjoyed the warm evening, watched the sun drop below the trees and listened to the wind that rifled through the taller weeds like a lover’s whisper.
After a few minutes of tranquil solitude, he lit two cigarettes and handed one to her. They smoked in tandem, sometimes speaking, often caressing each other in the simple way of habit. He reflected that to anyone who saw them there as the night wrapped about them, dark and mysterious, they might take them for a long married couple or old lovers reunited. Together, they evoked that kind of bond.
When that last bit of twilight faded, he turned to her.
“I have to go inside now and work.”
She nodded, her hand touching the curve of his cheek. “I know. I need to go home, too.”
He came to his feet but he still kept his arm about her. For just a few precious seconds, he put his face against her cheek, savored the feel of her skin touched to his. “I will see you.”
They sighed in unison so that it became a single breath, one small sound.
Her thumb stroked his lips and then she said what she never had before, “Kiss me.”
He stared at her, his deep dark eyes mirrored in her blue ones. “Are you sure you want me to do that, Rebekah?”
She answered with one soft word, “Yes.”
For the first time he put his lips against hers, her mouth just as warm and soft as he expected. He kissed her without a raging passion but with tenderness. If he allowed passion to rise, he would never make it back inside to finish his work and she would not go home. He savored the sweetness of that kiss, let it last as long as he could, too long and too short at the same time.
When he removed his mouth, their connection remained and it would forever.
Neither said farewell because there was no need.
Someday, they would be together, in this life or another or in the hereafter.
Their love could wait, patient and full.
Aleksander watched her leave, her step slower as she crossed to her car, a part of him grieving for the separation even as he knew he held her forever within his heart.
With the taste of her on his lips, with her scent in his nose, and her love lingering around him like a shield, he went back to work and although he spoke, he smiled, he listened and worked, his mind followed her.
His physical reality remained but that love, that woman, both were eternal.