This weeks FFF prompt was based on an eerie photo of a lake in the mist. The challenge was to write a romantic story, not a scary one. No knives, blood, or zombies. I think I succeeded, at just under 900 words.
I also reformat each story, adding info on the prompt and my blog, and print it to hand out to friends. Here's the last one, for download.
A Walk in the Mist
The parking lot was cold, misty, and deserted. Not a great day for a hike, especially with someone she barely knew. Deirdre had chatted with Peter online a lot, but this was the next step, their first face-to-face meeting. Both were in their 30s, single for a while, and cautiously into the dating game.
Now he was late. And her phone was dead.
She just nodded when he finally arrived.
"Sorry." he said. I got held up an extra half hour, issues at home. They’ll be okay. I tried to call you, though."
They? She thought he lived on his own. "Battery’s dead," she said. "No matter. At least it’s starting to warm up. I was out on the weekend, and it was sunny and packed."
He laughed. "Not so much now. But we’ll have the trail to ourselves now, nobody for miles I bet. And this mist would deaden any voices, anyway. We’re still okay to go, right?""
She had to admit the heavy mist and the isolation had her a bit worried. Too late now to back out, she’d been the one pushing for them to get offline and into the real world.
"No, let’s do it," she said, then laughed at his raised eyebrow. "You know what I mean, head for the trail. It’s a pretty hike around this lake."
They’d bantered a lot online, and she found she was still comfortable with him hiking up a trail.
"You look different from online," he said. "Better." He smiled. "And more hair."
"It’s that mist," she said, pulling her hair back. "I was afraid this would happen. It just explodes into curls."
"It’s fine," he said. "Lot’s of personality to it. Like you."
Such a flatterer, but she didn’t mind. "Why thank you, kind sir. You’re a guy, so can just keep it short or jam on a hat." At least he didn’t have one of those man-buns. That might be a show-stopper for her. "I was hoping we’d meet more people here to chat with today, but just as well, with this hair.
She paused. "So, everything okay back home? Room-mate problems?"
"I just needed to get out," he said. "I’m glad we could meet up, even if it does look more like a Stephen King novel today. Nice to be able to get to know each other better." Come on, I’ll race you to the next lookout."
He beat her, only by a minute but was on the phone when she rounded the bend.
She sat on a rock to catch her breath as he talked. He’d turned away a bit, but from what she could overhear he seemed to be trying to calm someone down.
"Sorry," he said, as he put the phone away. "Problem dealt with, all good now."
He seemed a little withdrawn, quieter, as they resumed their hike. They’d just made it to the next lookout point, and were sitting on the bench admiring the view when before the phone rang again.
Another apology, another conciliatory sounding call off to the side, to a woman she thought, sounded like "Mary".
More hiking, another call, and this time she was sure she overheard am "I love you" and a repeated "sweetie".
He hung up, they carried on walking and she wondered if this whole thing was a mistake. Dating was a pain in the butt, so many fake people online. And sometimes the same once you met them for a date.
The next time his phone rang, she held up a hand. "Okay, that’s it, I’m tired of all these calls from your girlfriend. This is not my idea of dating. We’ve almost finished the loop, so I’m out of here. Sayanora buddy."
She could hear him on the phone, apologizing to whoever, as she hurried down to the parking lot. She’d almost reached her car, when Peter ran into the parking lot, yelling at her to stop.
She turned and glared at him. "I thought this date was over?"
"Deirdre, please, it’s not what you think."
"Really? Then tell me what it really is."
"I can’t," he said. "It’s too complicated."
He reached for her hand, but she folded her arms and glared.
"You have 30 seconds, buster. Make it good."
"My mom died a while ago, when we were both teenagers, leaving me responsible. I juggled jobs and night school and managed somehow."
"And? 15 seconds, come on."
"It’s my sister," he said. "Mary is almost 50, and lives with me. She has since then, and likely always
will. Sorry, but it is what it is."
"Always?" she said. So much for being really single and available. "Time’s almost up."
"She has to," he said. "She’s, well, challenged, and needs my care. She’s usually okay, she just gets anxious and needs to be calmed down. I can’t afford to put her in a home, so that’s it."
Well now, she felt a bit of a shit. She reached her hand out to his arm. "Why didn’t you just tell me?"
"I wanted us to get to know each other better first."
"Well, being honest and open would help." Men could be such asses at times. "I guess I should meet this mysterious room-mate of yours."
He smiled. "Really? I’ll talk to her and set something up. Maybe we can start with a coffee on the weekend."