Have you noticed the writing prompts above? I love prompts, although I have novel ideas coming out my ears and not enough time to write them all, I still love to grab a prompt now and then and write a quick story for it. A wonderful exercise, it stirs the creative pathways and puffs out the dust and adds new dimensions, things you may not ever have written otherwise.
Today I decided to issue a flash fiction challenge on one of my writing lists. And then I got stuck as to what I wanted to write. So I came to my blog and grabbed the prompt from the rotating list provided by Writing.com. (Love that app!) The prompt said:
The car swerved to avoid the deer and plunged over the cliff.
Oh, that stirred my imagination! Actually, it pulled up a couple of characters in standby waiting for their chance for me to get to their story. So here's a quick first-draft glimpse of Tori and Neil (names could change):
“The car swerved to avoid the deer and plunged over the cliff.” Tori shrugged. “At least that’s the way they decided to call it. As good an excuse as any, I suppose.”
Neil studied the girl’s demeanor. There was oh, so much more to the story. He could tell there was. Tori wasn’t much for sharing, though. He knew if he was going to get the rest of it, he’d have to be vague and carefully work up to the revelation. It was becoming quite the adventure for him, figuring out how to talk to this girl without insulting or repelling her. Quite the feat.
“Anyway, so if you want me to cook anything special for your Christmas dinner, you’d best let me know quick. I’ll be out for a couple of hours that day, but not till later...”
“We’ll be at my parents’ for Christmas.”
She threw him a quick glance and nodded. “Figured, but don’t you take anything with you?”
“I take a couple of bottles of their favorite wine.”
“That’s it? I’m good at dessert. I do an incredible peppermint cheesecake if you’d want that.”
“Peppermint cheesecake? Haven’t heard of that.”
“No.” She put the last dish away she’d just washed and dried and turned to prop herself against the counter. “I created it. So I don’t imagine you have. Not that no one else has done one, but I bet it doesn’t beat mine.”
He couldn’t help a grin.
Tori tilted her head, her eyes penetrating nearly to his core. “You should do that more.”
“Smile. Looks good on you. And what do you know? Your face didn’t crack.”
“Funny. Very cute.”
“You are, you know.”
Neil waited, wondering if she’d tell him just what he was and whether or not he wanted her to tell him. He already had a vastly good concept about just what she thought of him: arrogant, rude, vain, among other less choice words she wouldn’t likely let herself say, at least not directly to him.
She didn’t elaborate and his curiosity made him stupid enough to ask. “I am what?”
“Very cute. So again, why don’t you have a girlfriend? I’ve been working here ... what? five months now? and you don’t even date. Why not? You look decent enough. Are you as rude to all girls as you are to me and figure none of ‘em will take it from you long enough to bother?”
He’d expected much worse. Maybe she was warming to him a touch. “I’m never rude to my dates, and I do date.”
“Do you? Guess they’re late nights, huh? After I’m already out at my real job?”
He cringed at the term. Her real job. The job that made him cringe and come off as ruder than he meant to be. It wasn’t her; it was her job.
“Sorry, forgot I shouldn’t mention it around you. So, are you gonna answer about dessert? Want one or not?”
“Peppermint cheesecake sounds good, actually, although cheesecake isn’t one of my favorites. Mom should love it.”
“Great, I’ll have it ready early that morning for whenever you’re leaving.” She shoved herself away from the counter. “Guess I better shower and get ready to go.”
“Tori.” He caught her arm, only for a second until her eyes threw a warning. “If you were going to come up with an excuse better than a deer, what would you come up with?”
Her eyes remained on him, with that look. The one that said he better be careful. She wasn’t about to have any wool pulled over her. Then she shrugged again. “Wouldn’t bother with a story. I’d use the truth. It’s a lot easier in the long run.” She started away and looked back at him. “Although, I guess some would be a lot more comfortable hearing a good story. Maybe that’s something I should learn to do.”
“Bet you’d come up with some doozies. More worth hearing than the deer.”
“Probably right. If I had the energy. I don’t. And I’ve gotta get ready for work. Casserole will be done in twenty minutes, about when Jack should be home. Tell him not to bother to come by tonight. I’m not staying late.”
Neil sighed and lowered into a chair. Not staying late. He knew what that meant.
No. Not tonight. She could be mad if she wanted, but not tonight.
He made his way up to her room and tapped on the door. It was open and she didn’t answer, so he went in, slowly. She was sitting on the bed, her head in her hands, elbows on her knees.
She yanked her head up, then stood and pulled back into her attitude. “What? I told you, I have to get ready for work.”
“What are you doing for Christmas?”
She stopped and frowned. “What?”
“Christmas. You know, December twenty-fifth. It comes every year.”
“Don’t be a jerk tonight. I’m not in the mood.”
“Okay, you said you had plans for a couple of hours. What about the rest of the day?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
He shuffled closer, waiting for another rebuff. “How about bringing your peppermint cheesecake with you when you come?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“We’d love to have you.”
“No, you wouldn’t. Don’t try to be nice just because of the season, all right? I don’t like that fake ‘be nice today and go back to nasty tomorrow’ garbage. Really, I’m fine. I’ll give myself the day off as a treat and that’s good enough.”
Neil couldn’t help himself. He moved closer. “What does the deer stand for, Tori? Tell me.”
“Doesn’t matter.” She pulled back.
“It was intentional?”
Her eyes touched his. Wounded eyes. Shielded. “Might as well have been. Wasn’t too unintentional. And it doesn’t matter.” She stepped backward. “I have to go to work...”
She shook her head.
He moved closer, touched her shoulder, amazed when she didn’t draw back. “Stay home tonight, Tori.”
“I can’t. Too much money lost. Boss is already mad at me...”
“What if I want you to try out your cheesecake on me? Tonight? I’ll even pay overtime since your shift is over, technically. Will that cover what you’ll lose?”
“Not if he fires me.”
“You know he won’t. You’ve said as much.”
“Don’t do this.”
Neil knew he was pushing his luck. And yet, he couldn’t stop himself. “Jack’s out late tonight. Practice, then dinner with Joselyn. I don’t want to eat alone. Come eat with me and then try out your dessert recipe...”
“I don’t have what I need. I’d have to...”
“Then we’ll run to the store.”
“Together?” She eyed him. “You’re going to be seen in public with me? Alone?”
Letting out a quick breath, he shook his head and dropped his eyes. “Have I been that much of a jerk?”
He raised them again, to hers.
“But it’s understandable. No harm done.”
His stomach tightened. “I think I might have to disagree. And I’m sorry. Please, don’t go to work tonight.”
“I have to. I can’t lose this job.”
Something told him she might honestly rather stay with him than go. “Okay, tell you what. Go for a short time as you planned then let me pick you up and take you to dinner. The casserole will wait until tomorrow.”
He touched her face. Her eyes peered into his, wary, warning, but maybe a bit hopeful, as well. “Please.”
That's all I have for now. But hey, it's a start on their story, even if this whole thing changes. ;-)