Category Archives: Romance

The Lonely #fridayflash #fiction

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Thank you for stopping in to read my #fridayflash. Be sure to visit the Friday Flash Community for more great flash fiction by outstanding authors!

The Lonely is from the “way back” archives. It’s based on my all-time favorite song, Thunder Road, by Bruce Springsteenwhich, to me, defines freedom.

The Lonely is rated PG-13, based on my standards.

The Lonely, by Deanna Schrayer

Mary jumped when the screen door slammed behind her. The family left three days ago and the quiet was enough to make every noise deafening. She tuned the radio propped on the window sill to a scratchy AM station, the only one that still played her favorite music. Now Roy Orbison was crooning for the lonely, as if he could read her mind. 

She would not feel lonely.

She sauntered to the porch swing, and adjusted the pillows, squirming like a cat, her battered dress slipping up her thighs.   

The jar flies stopped singing just before a boom of thunder rocked the porch, sending Mary bolt upright. She saw the downpour coming, and sucked in the humid air. Oh how she loved a good thunderstorm!

The wind picked up and Mary rushed to go inside. But she stopped cold when she saw him. Frankie stood at the edge of the porch steps. 

“Are you ready?” he smiled, that same demure smile that unraveled her like a ripe peach so many years ago. Now.

“I, uh,” Mary stumbled, “How did you get here?”

“Never mind that,” he said, risking a boot on the first step, “just come with me.”

“Come with you where exactly?”

“Mary, don’t turn me away again. You know why I’m here, let’s go.”

 “Frankie, I can’t.” She felt her voice crack, her heart rise to her temples. She refused to let him see her cry, to let him make her cry. She turned to run inside.

Faster than the lightning that bounced around his feet, he was against her. She could feel the heat vibrating off his chest. Her legs trembled. But she didn’t try to run as he pulled her auburn curls from her collarbone where they’d melted, nor as he placed his hot lips on her shoulder. Mary wondered how she could be frozen and melting at once. This is what he’d always done to her.

“Mary,” he whispered as he brushed her cheek, “I know you’re scared, but you can’t run anymore. You can’t hide from me, you know that. I will not leave without you.” 

 “Frankie, I….I can’t.” She pushed off him and fled straight into the rain, now hammering the earth with a vengeance. 

As the mud splashed her bare feet Mary gulped down the cries. Why wouldn’t he leave her alone?  Twenty years he’d been gone, then all of a sudden he was here, demanding she leave the life she’d grown accustomed to, just to be with him.

She glimpsed the dilapidated covered bridge through the haze. A faint light shining through the overgrowth halted her. There sat the Camaro, the same brilliant cherry red it was the last time she’d been in it. And there was Frankie, leaning against the grille, strumming his guitar. 

That night replayed itself with vivid clarity. 

Prom night. Frankie had asked Mary to be his wife in front of the whole class, just after they were crowned king and queen. How could she say no in front of all those people? She let him slip the ring on her shaking finger as she nodded her head yes. 

But she couldn’t let him think she meant it. 

There was no question she loved him. Still, she didn’t want to be the reason his dream of becoming a rock star faded to nothing.  He was driving her home when she asked him to pull over. Of course he obliged – he’d thought she wanted to show him just how much she loved him. 

Frankie pulled Mary to him and kissed her for a long time. “God, Mary, I love you so much.” He freed her long curls from the silver barrette and smothered her neck with kisses as his fingers loosened the spaghetti strap of her emerald gown. 

“Frankie…” With effort, Mary pulled away from him, “I need to talk to you.” She hung her head, couldn’t look in his eyes. 

“What is it? Are you okay?” Mary felt his eyes move to her stomach and knew he was afraid she was pregnant.

She pulled the ring from her finger and held it out to him, “We can’t get married Frankie. I want you to chase your dreams, to play your music.” Her breath came in quick, heavy gasps, but she’d said it, she’d told him the truth as she’d promised herself she would.

The ring sat in her hand between them like a hot potato.

 “Mary, I love you. You are my dream.” He slammed his fists on the steering wheel and held tight to it, his arms stretched taut. He didn’t look at her, just sat staring through the windshield. “My music means nothing if you aren’t there to share it,” he said.

“I love you too Frankie, I love you with all my heart. I just can’t marry you. It…it doesn’t feel right.” Mary leaned towards him as if trying to get him to look at her.

Without a word Frankie jerked the car into gear and spun the tires through the mud as he pulled into the pounding rain.

The ring bounced out of Mary’s hand and hit the dashboard, landing on the console with a raucous ping!

“Frankie! Slow down! I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” She held onto the door handle, and grabbed the dashboard with her other hand.

He was up to fourth gear already, the engine screaming.

“Slow down!” She was sobbing now. “Frankie, you’re going too fast! I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry!”

His eyes did not meet hers. They didn’t seem to meet anything. 

*

Now Mary stood staring at Frankie leaning against the car, playing his guitar. Smiling. And she remembered.

All these years she’d been running to that bridge when he showed up, running away from him, and she never saw it. She couldn’t get past the point where she’d looked over and saw Frankie’s forehead cracked open, fresh blood streaming down his nose, his eyes fixed open.

That’s as far as her memory had taken her.

But now she saw it all.

She’d tried to open her door, but it was no use. She was stuck. She caught a glimpse of her face in the cracked rear view mirror that had twisted toward the passenger side. In one jagged piece of glass she saw her own head bleeding, in another, her own eyes open.

She knew now, and she flew to Frankie’s open arms where, once again, he took her breath away.

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The Beginning #fridayflash #amwriting #fiction

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Thank you for stopping in to read my #fridayflash. Be sure to visit the Friday Flash Community for more great flash fiction by outstanding authors!

The Beginning is rated PG-13 by my standards.

The Beginning

The Beginning, by Deanna Schrayer

This is not the beginning of the story. The beginning starts at the end. But as Austin waits on the front porch for Shannon to arrive he is oblivious of that forthcoming end. He’s eighteen-years-old after all, with all his life ahead of him. He has no thought of an end, any end.

Austin’s girlfriend is coming over to have dinner with him and his parents before they go out for the night. As he pushes himself back and forth on the porch swing, chewing on a straw and squinting towards the pine trees lining the long drive, Austin imagines where he can take Shannon this evening.

She loves to be where the action is – carnivals, ball games, concerts, anywhere she can listen to the roar of a crowd as she holds Austin’s sweaty hand and pulls him onward to whatever’s next. Austin doesn’t mind, he simply takes her proffered hand and waits to be moved. He walks slightly behind her, allowing her to lead while he watches her thick brunette hair bounce on her shoulders, occasionally tripping over his feet because he isn’t truly there, he’s in the back seat of his Jeep, Shannon’s hair tickling his nose, her mouth on his neck.

“Hey, you!” Shannon laughs and pulls Austin into her arms, whispers in his ear, “Watch where you’re going,” laughs again, kisses his cheek.

The crunch of tires on gravel startles Austin out of the daydream and he jumps up out of the swing, ready to run to her, to wrap his arms around her waist and swing her around as he pours kisses on her neck. (He hasn’t seen her for a whole week, she’d been on vacation with her family). But it’s only Skip coming up the drive, his dad’s friend who is here to help Darryl fix the tractor. Of course it wouldn’t be Shannon, Austin thinks, she’s never on time, so nutty-professor like, or maybe just always in a rush; she often has to search high and low for her keys, her phone, her purse. She’ll be a while, he’s sure of it.

Austin heads to the garage where he takes out his dirt bike and rolls it to the edge of the hills beyond the back yard. It’s a cloudy day, still sticky from the storm that passed through last night. The ground is soft, squishy, and Austin wonders if he should just put the bike away, if maybe he shouldn’t chance covering his whole self in mud as he knows will happen. But then he figures he’ll have plenty of time to get cleaned up before Shannon gets there. He jumps high in the air and lands perfectly on the seat, ignites the cycle and revs it a few times before gunning it, fishtailing the back tire, spewing grass and mud in his wake as he climbs the hill.

Austin still has no idea what’s coming. For now he thinks only of Shannon while the bike vibrates his entire body, like he’s descending the world’s fastest roller coaster, his girl by his side, screaming. 

*

Shannon wants to speed, to get to Austin as fast as she can, but she takes the curvy mountain road in her Datsun slow and easy. The roads are still wet up here, the full oak and pine trees casting too much shadow to allow any sunlight through to dry the asphalt.

She barely sees the deer fly through the air in front of her. Shannon slams on the brakes and skids off the shoulder of the road. She sits trembling in the car, just catching sight of the puffy white tail disappearing down the mountain. She wonders where the fawns are; she has always seen at least two babies wherever a doe is. But after watching a couple of minutes as the car idles, no more deer appear.

Her limbs begin to relax and Shannon feels her foot still pressing the brake and she lets up on it slowly, shifting the car into park. She reaches for her phone in the passenger seat with the intention of texting Austin. But her phone isn’t there. Shannon leans over and rakes her hand around on the passenger floorboard but it isn’t there either. She’s left it at home again. Sighing, she straightens up and readjusts the rearview mirror, squirms around until she’s back in driving position. She’ll have to turn around and go back home to retrieve her phone.

*

Austin’s dad throws the wrench down and turns towards the back field. “Damn it Austin, slow down!” he screams. He’s not been watching but Darryl Camfield knows the sound of that motorcycle as well as he knows the recklessness of his son riding it. He can’t concentrate on what Skip is trying to show him for the awful whining racket of that bike engine.

Austin rides on, oblivious, hitting the bumps in the ground as hard as he can in order to send the bike soaring through the air.

“Damn boy’s gonna kill hisself,” Daryl mutters as he turns back to the tractor. Skip stands by the open hood, beefy arms across his chest, grinning and shaking his head as if he’s seen this, heard this very reaction from his friend more than once.

“Austin!”

He hadn’t heard his dad’s aggravated shout a few minutes ago but he brakes now. One yell from his mother’s commanding voice and he knows: stop. Austin’s happy to see she’s up and around today at least. He stands with the bike beneath him, relaxing his hands to slow the revving. He looks to the back porch where his mother stands patiently, nods his head to tell her he’s listening.

“Shannon’s going to be a little late,” she hollers, “she forgot her phone and had to go back to get it.”

Austin gives his mom a thumbs-up, then jumps and once again the Honda engine booms to life, taking the young man on a fast ride. He catches a glimpse of his dad and Skip looking towards him, both of them shaking their heads, Skip smiling wide as always and Darryl almost smiling but quickly wiping his mouth as if to mime a frown. Austin takes his hand off the bar long enough to wave at them and laughs as he picks up speed, heading for the next makeshift ramp.

*

The back yard is fully shaded now; Austin’s been riding longer than he thought. He gets off the motorcycle and turns it towards the house, walking it down the hill. He’s hot, his muddy jeans and tee shirt sticking to his drenched skin, the sweat dripping from the ends of his hair onto his face when he takes the stifling helmet off. He blinks sweat out of his eyes, looks towards the driveway, and tries to focus.

Shannon is standing in the driveway, wearing a gauzy-looking white sundress that shivers in the slight breeze. She holds her hands out as if in supplication, but he can’t see the look on her face, she’s too far away.

And that’s when it happens.

Austin loses his balance and loses his grip on the motorcycle. He feels himself going down, feels his ankle twist grotesquely as he falls and falls and falls as if from the top of a mountain, he feels the motorcycle following his tumble down the hill with ever-increasing momentum and there’s a raucous crack as the heavy bike hits….

It’s over. It is dark and quiet and Austin doesn’t know where he is. He feels stupid as he remembers Shannon was watching, she had seen him stumble and tumble down the hill like an idiot. He sits up gingerly and is surprised to find he’s facing the back fields. He turns his torso, carefully, and wipes the sweat from his eyes with his sleeve, smearing mud on his face.

 Shannon is nowhere that Austin can see.

He pulls himself up off the ground and is relieved to find he isn’t hurt, maybe a bruise or two, his ankle throbs a little. The bike is at the bottom of the hill, resting against the back porch steps as if its owner had gotten disgusted with it and threw it down.

His dad is walking towards him, slowly, removing his greasy cap and slumping forward as with a great weight on his shoulders. The frown on Darryl’s face is not the same one he wore when he yelled at his son a while ago; it’s a look Austin has never seen before. Austin’s dad stands before him and stares, unmoving.

“Dad?” Austin says.

Darryl glances away and runs his hand through his hair, several times.

Something is wrong. What’s wrong?

“Mom? Is it Mom?” Austin starts to run towards the house.

His dad grabs hold of Austin’s arm and stops him. He shakes his head – no, not Mom.

He takes hold of the boy’s shoulders. “Austin,” he says and hangs his head. He looks back up at his son, grips his arms tighter. And he tells him, “There’s been an accident…..it’s Shannon.”

And this is it, this is the beginning, the beginning of the end for Austin Camfield.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

First of all, I’m sorry to all of you who like happy endings! But stories have a mind of their own….

I don’t normally “cheat” where Friday Flash is concerned but this short, (around 1500 words), simply did not work well broken into two parts. It is also rare that I write in present tense but I hope you can see why this one called for it. Thanks so much for reading!

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The Night Before Christmas #fridayflash #amwriting #fiction #Christmas

frdayflashbadge02Thank you for stopping in to read my #fridayflash. Be sure to visit the Friday Flash Community for more great flash fiction by outstanding authors!

The Night Before Christmas was originally published as a #fridayflash in December of 2011.  I was sorely tempted to change the ending but stories are not meant to be forced into something they are not, so I held back and simply tweaked. I hope you enjoy The Night Before Christmas, rated PG-13, according to my standards.

Image by Deanna Schrayer
Image by Deanna Schrayer

The Night Before Christmas, by Deanna Schrayer

Susan sinks to her knees on the velvet tree skirt and buries her face in her hands. The tears slipping through her fingers taste metallic, sour, stinging her tongue. This is the first Christmas Eve in her life she’s been alone. She tried several times today to call her husband, Barry, at the hotel where he’s been staying since the day after Thanksgiving. But she got no answer.

The wind blows harsh and fierce outside the bungalow and Susan shivers. She lies on her side beneath the Christmas tree, the tree she decorated by herself in a fit of false hope two days after Barry left. Now a silvery icicle slides down to caress her face, as if to comfort her.

Susan wants so much to be angry with her husband, she wants to march down to the elegant Mystic Haven Ritz and slap him. But she has no basis for such longing – it was Susan who drove Barry away, it was she who had the affair.

Still, the anger has to come out and so Susan pounds her legs with her fists, she beats herself until she feels the pain ease from her heart down into her thighs. Exhausted, she bunches the tree skirt up and bundles it beneath her head, her fiery gold curls spilling over the burgundy velvet, brushing the hard wood floor.

She tries to think of Barry – the man who appeared at just the right time, the man who saved her life – sitting here with her by the fire, holding her body against his, arousing her with his feathery kisses. But all she sees is Cliff. Her first husband’s hard-muscled hands kneading her shoulders as he bruises her lips with kisses, Cliff’s urgent need to stoke the fire coursing through Susan’s veins with a fire all his own, Cliff’s misty blue eyes scorching to violet as his desire for her grows hotter and stronger. Cliff…

Susan recalls the first Christmas she and Cliff were married, (in fact they wed on Christmas Eve, this would’ve been their twentieth anniversary had they made it past those first few years), how they spent Christmas day wrapped in each other’s arms underneath a down comforter in the ski lodge as the snow fell outside their window and the ethereal glow from the fireplace warmed their already heated bodies. By the next Christmas they were expecting their first child, by the next they were mourning the loss of that child, and by the next….well, there was no next.

Again, Susan scolds herself for allowing her thoughts to turn back to the man who nearly killed her before she finally left him. She should be thinking about her husband, her current husband, the man who devoted his life to her, the man who has loved her so completely, despite her many flaws, for the past fifteen years. “Oh, Barry,” she thinks, “how could I do this to you?!” Before she starts to cry again Susan rubs her eyes and forces herself to get up off the floor, to pull herself together and figure out how to save her marriage. “I’ll go see him tomorrow,” she decides. He’ll be at his mom’s for sure, as they always are on Christmas. She won’t call ahead, she’ll just show up as if everything is fine, as if nothing at all has happened, as if she never stepped foot back into Cliff’s life.

Susan goes to the kitchen and pours herself a drink – Jack and coke, (mostly Jack), and takes it with her to the bedroom where she goes into her closet to decide what to wear tomorrow. She wants to look better than she ever has; she wants to make Barry’s mouth hang open with yearning. She bends to reach for her black stiletto heels and catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She looks like hell. Her usually emerald eyes are nearly as red as her hair, there are black mascara streaks staining her ruddy, swollen cheeks. But Susan doesn’t let the shock of her appearance deter her. She simply grabs her robe and heads to the bathroom.

After a hot bubble bath Susan is more relaxed, in much better spirits. She’s laid out Barry’s favorite dress and her velvet duster to slip on in the morning, has her makeup ready and waiting on her vanity; she’s even painted her nails, which normally feels like a chore but now has made her even more confident. Barry won’t be able to refuse her tomorrow, she’s certain of it. She has to be.

The two drinks Susan had, along with the bath, has, thankfully, relaxed her enough that she may be able to sleep tonight, so she locks up, turns the lights out, (but leaves the Christmas tree twinkling), and heads for bed.

Just as she’s about to drift off, there’s a knock at the door. It’s him! Her spirits soar, she’s wide awake in the time it took to hear that knock. Susan fluffs her freshly washed hair and licks her lips as she goes to let her husband inside. She’s so wound up she nearly trips over her robe as she reaches for the doorknob. Barely able to contain her excitement Susan opens the door and her arms wide in one fluid motion.

“Hey babe,” he says, leaning against the doorframe, “Happy anniversary.”

Susan stands dumbfounded, able to croak out no more than his name. “Cliff.”  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I hope you all have the most beautiful Christmas and the happiest New Year ever!

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Carl’s Pain – rewrite #fridayflash #amwriting #fiction

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Thank you for stopping in to read my #fridayflash. Be sure to visit the Friday Flash Community for more great flash fiction by outstanding authors!

This story was first published a year ago on my former fiction site (can’t believe it’s been a whole year!). Thanks to the superb critique I received then the story has been slightly rewritten. I hope you enjoy Carl’s Pain, rated PG-13, according to my standards.

Carl’s Pain, by Deanna Schrayer

Carl shuffled into the kitchen and hung his cap up, closing the screen door softly behind him.

“Any luck?” Amy asked.

Her husband looked at the cracked linoleum floor, raked his hand through his hair, and shook his head. But he didn’t look up at her.

“Oh honey,” she walked towards him with her arms held out as if to hug him. But he pushed past her, crossing the small kitchen in two single bounds. Amy jerked when Carl slammed his fist into the doorframe as he passed into the living room, her own fist automatically scrambling to cover her mouth.

For a minute it was silent, even his footsteps had halted. Then she heard glass breaking and she closed her eyes. She knew he’d knocked over the vase of daisies she’d set on the coffee table earlier. Yet, she didn’t move from her rigid position. A single tear slid down her cheek. When she heard the stairs creak she bent over the sink, turned the spigot on full blast and splashed her face with cold water. It didn’t wash away the pain, it only mingled with the tears.

Amy watched the neighbor boy and his dog rolling down the hill behind their house. All summer she’d watched this same scene in this same spot. Unlike most kids she knew this boy played with his pet for hours every day and it warmed her heart to know there were still caring children in the world. Once, he’d stopped in the middle of throwing the worn Frisbee and looked up at her, as if keenly aware of her staring at him. An electrifying jolt shot through her abdomen and she was surprised to discover this was the life she longed for – to have a child all hers to love. She’d never taken to children before. But with Carl not working she knew they couldn’t afford it and so she’d kept the longing to herself.

A loud bang startled Amy and she bowed her head and took a deep breath, knowing Carl had slammed the bedroom door. When she looked back up the neighbor boy had gone. Amy didn’t see his dog either. A woodpecker pounded, pounded, pounded away at the crumbling post of the back porch.

The wind had picked up and was blowing shadows through the kitchen windows as the sun sank lower in the sky. It was going to rain. Amy felt chilled and hugged her arms around her shoulders as she tiptoed to the landing of the stairs. She ascended so softly none of the familiar creaks reached the arches of her feet.

At the top of the stairs Amy shook as if a ghost had just flown through her body, but when she pushed the bedroom door open the sight before her caused her trembling to stop altogether. She expected Carl would be getting ready to go down town for his regular Friday night beer with his friends.

But he wasn’t at the closet. The water wasn’t running in the bathroom. Carl was not getting ready to leave at all. In fact, he was doing nothing. Nothing but lying there on the bed, face down, his arms spread out on either side of his head.

The window was open and splashes of rain began to darken the fluttering ivory curtains. Amy walked over and closed the window, as quietly as she could. She felt that if she made the slightest noise it would break some spell cast over them both, she was afraid it would shred what little fringe was left between them.

She couldn’t see Carl’s face from here; it was turned towards the wall. She realized her breathing was ragged and so she stood at the window a moment longer, forcing herself to breathe through her nose, to calm her nerves before going any further.  

Amy walked towards the bed, towards her husband’s inert figure, using all her will to keep her pulse normal. When her thighs touched the bare mattress Carl turned over, grabbed Amy’s arm, and pulled her down on the bed. Easily, expertly, he pinned her with his knees and held her arms above her head. Amy’s heart pounded so hard she was sure it would leap out of her chest and hover there in the inch between their bodies.

Carl stared into his wife’s pale hazel eyes with an expression she’d never seen before. His breath came in ragged spurts, and then stopped as if he’d quit breathing. He took a gulp of air and released it into her face. She didn’t smell any whiskey. And she could always smell it.

“Carl?” she whispered, not sure what she expected to happen. But what did happen shocked her for she’d never seen him act this way. Her husband’s exhausted body fell upon hers, nearly crushing her petite form. But she was grateful for the weight. She felt his pain wash over her body before she felt his tears on her shoulder.

Amy took his cheek in her hand and gently wiped the tears away; she took hold of his thick black curls with her other hand and pulled his face down to hers, and she kissed him. She kissed him softly, yet strongly, showing him that she could handle the pain, if only he would release it all to her she would share his burden.

Finally, after their faces were soaked and they’d stopped shaking, she spoke. She stroked his hair as she said, “Honey, it’s going to be okay, we’re all right. I’m here.”

“You’re…here…” Carl said it wonderingly, as if he couldn’t believe she’d still be here for him, the man who’d punished her, who’d pushed her away all these months, simply because he couldn’t seem to find a job.

“I’m here,” she said again, and she smiled.

Carl held nothing back now as he allowed the despair to come forth, to pour from his gut, and drench his love, the love he knew was strong enough to handle the wrenching pain he’d held in for so very long. He lay beside his wife and he held her, tighter and tighter. He kissed her forehead, her cheeks, her eyelids. And he murmured into her mouth, “Thank you.”   

~~~~~~~~~

This story was inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s poignant song, This Depression

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