Thursday, January 17, 2008


I stumbled upon the Flash Fiction Carnival 2008, listed on Absolute Write, and thought, "What the hey?" It's a way to prod the muse without the pressure of publishing looming over me. The prompt this time around was NEW, and I bring you . . . fluff.


The stranger in her bed was about a hundred and eighty pounds of solid muscle, thankfully fully clothed. Other than a vague memory of promising him a kiss at midnight, Sybil had no idea who he was. He was cute, though, in a way-too-good-for-her frat boy sort of way. She was pretty sure he’d take one look at her sober, and beam directly back to planet Cool. They always did. Aside from co-hosting the occasional rockin’ beer-bash, Sybil was a social outcast. She had half a mind to climb back under the covers, but thought better of it. Still, those few precious seconds between sleep and waking, tucked snuggly in his arms had been . . . sweet.

She found Craig and Ellen in the kitchen, performing their normal post-party ritual. To the uneducated eye, it looked a little like two blind sailors tilting back and forth through a ship’s galley dumping random items into a large bowl. But Sybil smiled as she watched them, reaching over and under and past each other in a long-practiced dance. Some things never changed – and after the year she’d had, Sybil liked that idea. The familiarity of seeing her roommates clean up and make breakfast after an all-night thrasher felt like home.

“Syb, is your friend staying for pancakes, or what?” Craig asked, cracking eggs one handed and tossing the shells in the sink.

Sybil wrinkled her nose at him as she peeked over the counter. “I guess I’ll go ask him,” she answered, dipping her finger into the batter before huffing back down the hallway.

She kicked her bedroom door open and let it fling into the nightstand, but the occupant of her bed didn’t flinch. Sybil opened the blinds, bathing the room in hazy late-morning sun, to no avail. She finally sighed, reached down, and poked his shoulder. He stirred awake, blearily blinking his eyes at his surroundings. Sybil leaned against the door with her hands pressed behind her as his gaze finally settled on her.

“Morning, Sybil,” he smiled, sitting up.

“Yeah, hi,” she answered blandly. An awkward silence followed, where he looked at her expectantly and she looked everywhere but at her anonymous man-candy guest, a flush steadily crawling up her neck.

“You don’t remember my name, do you?” he sat up, chuckling softly.

“Breakfast?” she asked, ignoring his question.

“Sounds great,” frat-boy answered, as he stood up and stretched. He shuffled past her with an ironic smile, leaving Sybil scowling at his back and mentally fumbling through her memories of the night before.

Breakfast was strange. Tom introduced himself to Craig and Ellen, and then socialized as if he’d been invited for tea. Sybil wondered what was really up with his Mr. Roger’s act. She made every attempt at insinuating her suspicion, to which Tom’s only response was a serene smile. Craig and Ellen were thoroughly charmed, especially when he offered to clear the table.

“No, really. That’s okay - you can go,” Sybil said, grabbing a stack of plates from his hands.

“I don’t mind,” was all he replied.

The clean up went quickly, and Craig and Ellen were ecstatic at Tom’s generous help, extending an open-ended invitation for him to return any time, even as Sybil glared at them from behind his back. Her roommates only smiled and winked, retreating to their rooms. Left alone with her auspicious houseguest, Sybil fidgeted as he studied her. The soft challenge in his eyes was unnerving.

“So,” she said, clearing her throat.

“You owe me a kiss,” Tom said without preamble.

“What?” Sybil asked, her eyes going wide.

“Last night, you promised me a kiss, and you never paid up,” he answered, stalking towards her.

“I-, uh-, you-, remember that?” She stepped back, then ran into the wall as he advanced.

“That’s why I stayed,” he nodded. “I wanted you to be sober, to remember it.” The warmth of his body occupying her personal space sent her heart racing away, and she looked at his wide, smiling mouth in a whole new threatening light as he hovered over her.

“Why?” she asked in a breathy whisper, her brows knit together in anxious confusion. Why was this gorgeous man even still in her house? Was he just playing with her? Some sort of twisted ‘make out with the nerd’ joke? A bet?

“It’s the first kiss of the New Year. It should be memorable, don’t you think?” he asked, caressing her cheek with the back of his hand.

Sybil frowned harder to cover her shiver of anticipation. “Why me?” she clarified.

“You intrigue me,” he breathed into her mouth.

She looked up at him, startled, holding her breath. It’s not that she hadn’t been there before. Guys had put moves on her plenty of times – it had just never worked so well. Sybil could feel all of her careful defenses melting away. She stared into Tom’s eyes, wondering if, for once, it could be the real deal. His gaze was open and honest meeting hers. And though she could feel the invitation in his closeness, it was just that – inviting, not demanding. If she were honest, he intrigued her too – even if it was mostly wondering how he could possibly want her. Then she thought, what the heck? It was a New Year, right? New opportunities. New possibilities. And if she dared, new hopes. Some things never changed, but maybe, just maybe, some things did. She wrapped her arms around Tom’s neck, and as his lips sank in to hers, Sybil decided that new was definitely a good thing, and so was memorable.


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bunnygirl said...

This is a nicely done little story, sweet, romantic and hopeful. There were a couple spots where (for my tastes) you were a little heavy on the -ly adverbs, but I see no real craft issues here.

I like the idea of the slightly dorky girl getting the hunky guy. It took me until I was 28 and way past beer parties, so it sounds like Sybil is doing something right! LOL!

Serena said...

I enjoyed your writing. You had some good lines like "She was pretty sure he’d take one look at her sober, and beam directly back to planet Cool," and the blind sailors tilting back and forth.

Good job! :)

R. Jill Fink said...

I have to be honest. I usually can't stomach the romance genre. However, your story was so well written I got all the way to the end without feeling sick at all! I really liked the "blind sailors" in the kitchen. It was quite a welcome twist for the nerdy girl to get the hunky guy, and I'm very glad that he wasn't playing a twisted joke on her. Great job.

Ray M. Solberg said...

You have such great humor (I echo earlier comment about the "Planet Cool" line - made me laugh). You've a very strong voice in your writing, very comfortable to read and i thought this story showed a good sense of pace. I also like the girl who gets the boy unexpectedly as well as the way you have illustrated the theme of new in the situation, their relationship and their shared kiss. Great work.

Dante said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dante said...

I thought the writing was gentle and thoughtful. It had a definite feminine touch. Gwen truly has a command of descriptive and expressive writing. In fact, reading this, it made me feel sick to my stomach remembering my college nights and the mornings to follow.
The reference to Craig tossing the eggs in the sink, may not have seemed important, but I think it showed just one more level of depth to her writing. It is the kind of thing that a college student would do. And further lent credence to her story.
I especially liked, “her brows knit together“ and “man-candy guest”.

As much as I hate to be. I was told to be critical also.
So the one thing that really hit me in the face was that Gwen failed to find an end. There was no “hook”. She didn’t seem to come to a big finish. I waited for something to happen that would make the story come together, but it never arrived.
It was like having eggs with no salt or Abbot without Costello.

Gwen Mitchell said...

Thank you, everyone, for your comments. I know I have an -ly problem, and I also 'think in novels' so flash fiction is really hard for me - hence taking the plunge! You're right, Dante, about the ending. I trimmed and trimmed to get it under 1000 words, and I agree I skimped on that part.

I really appreciate the feedback, and I'm glad even 'non-romance' readers could appreciate it. This is a good exercise for me, and lots of fun. Thanks. =)

Caleb said...

I also wanted a big ending but the line in the last paragraph about his love being "inviting, not demanding" really stuck with me.

Slake said...

Good story. Would also like to see the adverbs cleaned up a little. But enjoyed your writing. One line I found awkward is:

“You intrigue me,” he breathed into her mouth.

AlannahJoy said...

This was a sweet little piece that I enjoyed reading. I love that the hunky guy wasn't a stereotypical frat guy who wants a Barbie type to match. This guy clearly has depth and it's very refreshing. Nice work!

Kate Boddie said...

I know this is my pessimism and experience talking but I was fully expecting a stab in the throat at the end but it was a nice change of pace from what my cynical mind is used to. I would have liked to see just how Sybil was nerdy adn geeky as opposed to just being told that she was. I didn't have a clear picture of her in my head the entire time. Overall, though, a good read even though, like others, I'm not a romance fan.