A friend has revived a popular Flash challenge site - Flash Fiction Friday. Each week you are prompted with a word, phrase, photo, song, genre mix, etc. The challenge is to write a very short story - less than 1500 words - based on the prompt.
This week's prompt was Obsession. I decided to start with a cliche and add a twist and a bit of darkness. The story is 896 words.
Poor LIttle Thing
The pain and the cold had faded. Charles just wanted to close his eyes and sleep under his warm blanket of snow. This shortcut had been a bad idea, this late, in this weather. A careless step, a slide down the slope, then agony as his back slammed into a rock. His arms hadn't been enough to drag him back up the hill, and his cries for help were muffled in the thick snow. It was an isolated path, so nobody was likely to come along in time. Except maybe one person.
Initially Charles had just been trying to be nice to the new girl. He'd been new himself at one time, fresh out of college, hired into marketing for, admittedly, his looks and charm. Poor Sarah was such a shy little thing, plain as could be, staying close to the wall as she skittered down the hallways, head down and folders clutched to her chest.
His hello's seemed to fall on deaf ears, so one day he'd added "Pretty shoes", even though they were actually rather plain. She'd faltered, then blushed and stammered a thank you.
After that, it seemed that every morning they'd meet up in the front lobby. As they passed, Sarah would look up, catch his eye, and give a quick smile and a nod. Then one day she dropped by his cubicle with his mail and a coffee.
"No problem," she said. "It saves all of you time to work on those clever marketing plans. I checked with the deli and made sure to get this just the way you like it."
The mail drop and coffee got to be a habit with her, but he didn't really mind. Sarah would pause and chat for a while, mostly about him it seemed. He did notice that of all the managers he was the only one getting a bit of personal service—his mail, a fresh coffee, a muffin or slice of cake. He felt a little guilty about her giving so much, so started to compliment her on her improved fashion sense—the new hairdo, shorter skirts, and of course the pretty shoes. However, while he did enjoy talking with her, and appreciated the attention, after a while he couldn't stop bumping into her, even outside of work. First the deli, then the beer store, then on his bus. The bus was too much.
"Sarah, I appreciate you dropping by, and the treats," he said, "but now I feel like you're always there, every time I turn around."
She denied it all, and seemed hurt by his comment, but did back off for a while. His co-workers teased him about having to get his own mail and coffee, but he didn't mind. He still saw Sarah in the office, but she just managed to look hurt and angry at the same time. For his own part, he hated to ignore her completely, so would still nod and smile, and after a few days Sarah seemed to thaw a bit. Soon after that he started dating Anne, from accounting. Apparently she'd been attracted to him for a while, but had always assumed that he and Sarah were an item.
He'd laughed. "No, no way. She's just someone I tried to be nice too, and she took it the wrong way. Poor little thing."
Somehow his comment must have got back to Sarah. At least, he assumed it was her that keyed 'poor little thing' on the side of his car. He started bumping into her again too, mostly outside of work. She'd seldom talk to him, just that nod and smile. A smile that more calculating than shy now. There were a few incidents too. The picture on his desk of Anne and him disappeared. He went to pick up dry cleaning, but it was already gone. Their local restaurant complained that he'd twice made reservations—from his office phone—and never showed up. Charles was struggling with what to do, when Sarah's own carelessness exposed her.
She lost her cell phone at work, and one of the other clerks found it. Soon the whole office knew about its contents—the many photos of Charles, at work, on the street, even in his house; the long rambling poems of her love for him; the detailed notes on her calendar showing where and when she could run into him. The president called Charles and Sarah into his office, cautioned Charles to be more careful, and fired Sarah.
In the days that followed, Charles felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He hadn't realized how much this had all been stressing him out. He did feel bad that Sarah had obviously become so smitten with him, but he assumed she would eventually get over it. He still thought he saw occasional glimpses of her outside the office, at a distance, but wasn't sure.
Tonight was Anne's movie night out with the girls, so he'd worked late, not realizing a storm was building outside. She had the car, and cabs were non-existent, so he'd decided to cut through the park. All it had taken was a moment of inattention, a careless step in the failing light, and now here he lay. He peered up at the path through the falling snow. Was that a shadow? He cried out weakly.