Every once in a while, I’ll find myself not just attracted to a woman but inspired by them. I pay special attention when that happens because that’s the kind of thing that helps pick my spirits up and encourages my mind to get working.
To that end, I’ve decided to continue the flash fiction I began with Goodbye, Horses. Hopefully y’all will like this as much as you did the first part:
The sun was warm against her side. The grass was soft under her hands, the emerald tips tickling the contours of her palms. Two gulls circled lazily overhead, their wings glinting in the rays of the summer day.
Marisol and Tom rested across from each other. She was sitting cross-legged while he lay on his back, arms folded behind his head and face turned sideways. He was watching a pair of children kick a pale pink ball around fervorishly.
When she first spotted him in the bookstore, she had seen a sadness in him. It hadn’t been overwhelming. She wasn’t worried about him breaking down in tears in public or shredding some classic piece of literature that no doubt reminded him of some heartless ex. The signs were smaller. A slight hunch in his shoulders. The way he shuffled his feet from aisle to aisle instead of picking them up. The lines that curled around his eyes and pulled in towards his mouth.
She could relate, she thought. A feeling of complacency had taken over her life and what had started as a sense of contentment was quickly transforming into a profound restlessness and wanderlust. At work, the pointless chatter of her co-workers was starting to gnaw at her. She didn’t care about who drank how much or what somebody’s bar tab was. So what if this person was cheating on that person and vice-versa and no, she didn’t think couple’s therapy would work.
She wanted stories of adventure and culture and coincidences so profound they might as well be classified as miracles. She wanted to see pictures of exotic places and hear about fleeting love and near-death experiences and moments where someone finally found out what living was.
But she wasn’t getting that. She was getting drivel.
She had left work early and retreated somewhere she could be alone with her own fantasies and longings for spur-of-the-moment action. That’s how she had wound up at the bookstore. She didn’t even know what she was looking for, but it was quiet there without being as stifling and formal as, say, the library.
That’s where she had found Tom, with his weary expression and shoes that left smoothed streaks in the carpet with every “step” that he took. He looked like she felt: a frayed knot that could probably benefit from just being unwound a bit.
She took a chance. She didn’t know why, but each foot she got closer to him was charged with more energy than the last. He hadn’t noticed when she finally reached him; he was too busy scowling at the large book he’d been flipping through for several minutes. She opened her mouth to speak, choked on the first word, tried again and asked, “What are you reading?” in a voice much more confident than she felt.
She had surprised him with the question, with her presence, but if he felt put upon he didn’t show it. Instead, she saw a gentleness in his eyes. A kindness and a little bit of caution. Tom wasn’t used to being approached by strange woman and that was fine, because Marisol wasn’t used to being the strange woman getting up in men’s business.
But he responded and they talked. It wasn’t quite about nothing, their conversation, but it was close. It also came easier and felt more… relaxed than any conversation she could remember having in recent times. They both laughed. He rolled his eyes at her corny jokes and references, but she could see the smile behind it all. When he asked her to join him out, she accepted, though she didn’t know why.
That’s not true, she thought. I do know. I needed to get away. I needed to have a real conversation that wasn’t mired in drama and pointlessness. I wanted to be around someone who was as fed up with the day-to-day as I am.
She looked at Tom, laying there, watching youth dart across the park, slapping a toy that probably cost half a dollar to make and thirty-five to buy. The lines in his face had smoothed out. It was hard to tell for sure because he was flat on his back, but she could swear the slump in his shoulders had straightened out a bit as well.
Marisol wondered if she showed physicals signs of discontent as well. If so, she wondered if he had noticed them.
He wasn’t conventionally attractive in the sense that the girls at work wouldn’t gawk at him with Ohmigaw’s and I-could-just-DIE’s, but he was handsome. His hair looked like he had just rolled out of bed but it worked on him, somehow. There was an attentiveness to him; even as she watched him, she could see how he took in every little detail of the day and the people enjoying it. He made her smile with his words and, considering the idiots she spent most of her time around, that may have been the best quality of them all.
“What are you thinking about?” she asked.
“Mm,” Tom murmured.
He turned his head to look at her and the position, unflattering for anyone, gave him a small double-chin. She snickered and covered her mouth, trying to mask it as a cough.
“What?” he asked.
“What? No, I didn’t.”
“You did. What’s so funny?”
“I didn’t, I coughed. Must have been…uh, pollen.”
“Pollen,” Tom said.
“Yeah. Or something. Tickled my throat. What were you thinking about?”
Tom smiled, which made the chin worse. Marisol barely restrained herself.
“I was just looking at those kids, thinking about when I was younger. I picked this park because my friends I would always come down here, stir up some trouble. We would go down the bike trail and play in the creek, see if we couldn’t find something cool that somebody tossed in or left behind.”
“And did you?”
“Found a tacklebox once. A few bicycle skeletons. My buddy Derek found an engagement ring once. Couldn’t find the owner, so we pawned it and bought a pizza. Looking back on it, I think we probably got ripped off.”
Marisol smiled and looked out towards the gap in the trees where the bike trail wound through. The sun was still sitting high and even the faint breeze rustling the leaves and tousling their hair was warm.
“Let’s go play in the creek,” she said suddenly.
“You want to what now?”
“The creek. Come on. It’ll be fun.”
Tom sat up. “I didn’t bring an extra set of clothes. Or even a towel. Kids play in creeks. I-”
“Got boring as you got older?” Marisol asked with a grin that flashed her teeth.
She saw a light flare in his eyes. He shook his head slowly. “I’ll only get in that creek on one condition.”
“I beat you in rock, scissors, paper?”
“That would never happen. You have to race me there.”
“Deal,” Marisol replied immediately.
” I’m warning you, I took track in high-”
Marisol leapt to her feet and sprinted towards the bike path. She could hear Tom curse – softly, as if he was hoping she wouldn’t hear – and her grin broadened. Her legs pumped and she bolted between the two kids, leaping over their rolling ball.
Lilac trees lined the park, a brilliant frame to the picturesque park. As she raced along, hair blown backwards, she could catch a scent of the amethyst flowers and she hoped Tom would smell it, too. It wound through the field like a kiss in the wind.
–This didn’t have as much dialogue or humor as the first piece, I don’t think, but I enjoyed writing it all the same. Hope you all liked it, because I’m definitely thinking of writing a third and final part soon.
Update: Here is the third and final part: Something In the Water