Monday, May 3, 2010

Strapped

**This is my story for Patricia Abbott's flash fiction challenge (in short: have a redhead in a blue dress walk into a dining establishment while Sweet Dreams is playing). Find a lot more (and better!) flashes on her blog. Here's my YA flash for this challenge:**


Strapped

My best friend Josh and I were splitting a meal at Bo’s diner when she came in. The jukebox played a Eurhythmics song—Sweet Dreams. Josh had already finished his half a burger, and now he was attacking his half of the fries. I had to hurry, or he’d steal mine.

“Dude, check her out,” Josh said, a sliver of hamburger bun hanging from the corner of his mouth. “She’s hot.”

Josh thought all women and girls were hot—even the ones that weren’t.

I followed his stare to see if I agreed. She had her back to me, which was long and narrow. Her dress was this bright electric blue, her red hair piled on her head in one of those messy updos that looked easy but probably involved a lot of skill.

“Earth to Evan.” Josh stole one of my fries.

“Hey.” I smacked his hand, but kept half an eye on the woman in the blue evening dress. It was five in the afternoon, at a cheap diner—she looked really out of place. I watched her lean on the counter, ask Bo the owner something. He pointed to the far end of the diner, by the bathrooms, to the jukebox.

“What’s a babe like that doing in this nasty hole?” Josh asked, licking the salt off his fingers. The food sucked, but Bo’s was the only place within walking distance that let us split a meal. Given that Josh and I were broke and fifteen, thus without transportation or funds to buy a meal each, Bo’s was our place.

The jukebox belted out the ending to another eighties song—Bo’s favorite decade—and the woman walked toward the phone. I caught a glimpse of her profile: straight nose, red lips, hair cascading down the rest of her face. Nice body profile, too.

“Nice rack, huh?” Josh said, as if he was reading my thoughts and interpreting them Josh-style.

I ate some fries, two at a time, dipping them in the watery generic ketchup Bo’s served. The woman went to the payphone, punched in some numbers, and dipped her head back as she took a breath.

Black mascara under her eyes, streaked by tears. Her eyes were red.

“Something’s wrong,” I said, reaching for more fries, but finding my plate empty.

Josh belched. “Women. Something’s always wrong.” He leaned back in the booth, stretching his chest like he always did after he ate.

The woman was waiting for someone to answer. She held on to the receiver with both hands, like it was her life raft. She listened, shook her head.

“You think she’s wearing a bra?” Josh leaned across the diner table. “Five bucks says no.”

“You don’t have five dollars,” I said, unable to take my eyes off her.

“Still.” Josh grinned. “If you had to bet.”

I looked, and couldn’t guess the answer to Josh’s question. The woman struck me as classy, nice, the kind that would wear a bra with her evening dress. “You need to get yourself some class, Josh. No girl will ever go out with you if all you care about is her underwear.”

“Three girlfriends, Evan.” Josh leaned back again and held up three fingers. “Versus your, uhm, zero?”

I looked away.

“I rest my case.” Josh looked smug.

“Alright,” I said, tossing five singles on the table. “I bet five bucks that she does.” I immediately felt guilty.

The woman had hung up the phone, and she was now standing near the jukebox, looking lost. And sad.

On impulse, I got up. I waited, leaned on the diner table, not sure if I had the guts to walk over there.

“Bet’s on,” Evan said, just as I walked away from the table. I dug into my pocket as I walked over to the red jukebox, where the beautiful redhead in the blue dress was looking at me now.

Looking. At me.

Thankfully, I had three quarters. “Hi,” I said as I got close enough. “I have a quarter.”

She smiled at my clumsy line, a beautiful smile with slightly crooked teeth in front. She was in her early thirties, I guessed, and really beautiful.

I blushed. “For the jukebox,” I added. “You looked like you could use some cheering up.”

She touched her hair, which I now realized wasn’t messed up as a style. Something had happened to her to dishevel her red curls. “I must look awful.”

“You’re beautiful,” I said before I had a chance to edit myself.

“You’re nice.” She smiled again and extended a hand. “Jolene.” Her skin was cold and soft.

“Evan.” My hand was sticky and wet, no doubt, but Jolene didn’t look disgusted, which I took as a good sign. I dropped my quarter, and picked it up. Feeling like an idiot. “It’s all eighties songs,” I said as I stuck the quarter in the slot.

“That’s okay,” Jolene said, leaning on the jukebox to pick her songs.

The diner door chimed, and a big, burly guy in a thick leather coat and a goatee walked in, scanning the place. As soon as he spotted Jolene, he walked over.

Just as she’d picked her songs, she looked up. Her expression went sad again, but she smiled for the guy’s benefit.

“Bye Evan,” she said softly before walking to meet the guy.

He glanced at me, grabbed her by the elbow. Her bright blue dress strap dropped, revealing another strap. A bra strap.

The jukebox sang the same Eurhythmics song, of sweet dreams, seven seas and people looking for something.

I sat back down across from Josh. “I win. She wore a bra.”

Josh shrugged, like it was a loss somehow, even though he never intended to pay up. He slid a big plate of fries toward the middle of the table. “Here, I bought some fries with your money.” He took four fries at a time, pointed them at me. “I think that girl liked you.”

9 comments:

  1. This so perfectly captures the conversation of that age boy and yes also captures the sadness Evan is beginning to intuit that lies in the years ahead.

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  2. Thanks, guys! It was fun to write.

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  3. I agree with Patti; the dialogue rings very true. Compelling story. Glad you joined the challenge, Fleur.

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  4. Great story. A lot more going on than you told us outright, you did a great job of evoking our feelings instead of telling us how to feel.

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  5. A fine story, and no one even got murdered. For some reason I identified with that Evan guy.

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  6. Lovely--reminds me why I would never, ever want to be a teenager again.

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  7. Goodness, that brings me back to my high school days. I knew plenty of guys like Josh. Nicely done.

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