This story is by Kristian Winkler and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The first time we met, I thought you were just a strange and lonely man. Although, you quickly had me wrapped around your finger…
I curve my gloves tightly around my caramel frappe and shiver as the crisp autumn air rushes to greet me while leaving the busy cafe. Since the inside is a packed house, I sit on the bench in front of the shop so I can still make usage of their WiFi. After the busy weekend I’ve had, Sunday crept up on me before I knew it and I still have to enter the exam grades for eighty plus students.
“It is just my luck that I decide to come on the day their pumpkin spice lattes are on sale,” I grumble to myself as I take a sip of my cold drink. “It is chilly out here.”
“Is the seat next to you taken?” a voice suddenly asks, disrupting my hypocritical complaining.
“It is not,” I reply, not looking up. “So, you may sit down if that’s going to be your next question.”
I have no time to waste on idle chit chat when my laptop is screaming at me to work.
“O-oh, um, thank you,” I hear the man stammer, clearly taken back at my blunt ways.
The bench slightly creaks in protest as new weight is added to it and he shuffles around to get comfortable. After that, I mentally tune out any outside noise other than the clicking sounds of my keyboard.
“What are you working on?” the man wonders after several minutes of silence.
Annoyance sparks through me and I cut my eyes towards him only to have the ill feeling melt away once I notice how handsome he is… and how close his face is to mine right now. Apparently, he has been looking over my shoulder.
I feel my cheeks begin to warm up as I stare into the emerald eyes hiding behind his glasses and quickly turn my head, attempting to focus back on my work. “J-just putting in some grades.”
It is supposed to be 48 degrees out here yet I feel like I am sitting in a sauna. I was freezing my ass off just a moment ago, so why isn’t the cold air doing its job right now?
“Ah, so you’re a teacher?”
“Yes,” I answer more confidently this time. I reach down and took another sip of my frappe, hoping the cool slush would defeat the overwhelming warm sensation.
“11th grade English.”
The man chuckles. “How interesting. I teach at the high school level, also. Except, I teach History. Where do you teach?”
Dear God, he is good looking and has a stable job! But, he is distracting me and I really need to get this done.
I sigh. “Sir, I’m working right now. I don’t have time to be playing 20 questions with you.”
The man gets up without a word and a small pang of regret hits me, but I try to ignore it as I continue to type. As I hear footsteps start to walk past me, they abruptly stop and I see the man pick up my frappe out of my peripheral vision. I snap my head up and arch an eyebrow in surprise.
Is this man really going to take my drink because I rejected him?
However, he never takes off with it. Instead, he pulls out a black Sharpie, scribbles something on the side, and hands it to me. Confused, I accept the drink and the man says, “I apologize for bothering you, but I would really like to continue this game of 20 questions with you.” He winks and turns on his heel to walk away, dark curls bouncing after every step he takes.
“What in the world…” I mumble as I look to see what he had written and my heart skips a beat.
It was his number.
Underneath that was the name Mike.
I’ve never been the type of woman to chase after a guy before. In fact, I’ve always played hard to get. But, you were different…
I gave in a week later and finally texted Mike, playing the role of the secret admirer. Immediately, he knew it was me and admitted he was worried he wouldn’t hear from me. We were able to finish that game of 20 questions and then some for the next few weeks. He is in his late 20s, works at a school over in the next county, and is a die hard Harry Potter nerd. That was a bonus for me since I, too, am a huge fan of the series
Unfortunately, we never got to meet up in person due to our busy schedules until Thanksgiving…
“I can’t believe I forgot to buy the damn turkey,” I mumble as I hurry into the store.
After searching the entire store and asking the cashier, I learn that they have ran out of turkey.
“Why don’t you come to the countryside with me?” a familiar voice says from behind. “There are plenty of turkey out there for us to catch.”
I spin around and see Mike standing in his normal sweater vest attire, holding a few cans of cranberry sauce.
I narrow my eyes at him. “How were you lucky enough to score that while I’m up the creek without a paddle?”
Mike chuckles. “I’m not that lucky. It’s just cranberry sauce. Who likes this stuff, anyways?”
“Traditional people like our parents,” I remark, breaking out into a smile. “It is great to see you again.”
Mike smirks. “I’m glad to hear that. You didn’t seem so thrilled to see me before.” I step aside to give him room so he can check out. “But, seriously, how can you forget the turkey?”
I look away, flustered. “I blame work.”
“I suppose I can accept that excuse since I can relate,” Mike teases. He turns around once he is done paying and brushes his hand against mine. “My offer still stands.”
My body shudders at his touch, but I cover it up by leaning to one side and crossing my arms. “Killing a turkey with you doesn’t sound like the ideal first date to me.”
Mike takes a step closer and leans into my ear to whisper, “I’m sorry. How about I treat you to a dinner this weekend, instead?”
Butterflies flutter in my stomach and I agree to the date. As we walk out of the store together, Mike surprises me by wrapping an arm around my back, gently pulling me closer, and softly places his lips on mine. I am in shock and have no time to react before he waves good-bye and jogs off.
On Cloud Nine, I hurry off to my family dinner. Thankfully, my sister saves the day by bringing a turkey herself, knowing I am scatterbrained at this time of year. I return the favor by spilling the beans about a certain man.
However, plans changed. One moment you were here and then the next you were gone…
I walk across the grass, stomping on the colored leaves without a passing glance. I arrive at my destination and bend down to place the bouquet of white lilies onto the ground. I glance up and stare blankly at the tombstone in front of me.
Beloved teacher, son, brother and friend
Mikeal Lee Bryant
April 24th, 1989
November 25th, 2017
“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
His life was taken by the hands of a drunk driver as he was on his way to meet me. To think that driver took the life of this wonderful man and ended any possible future that we may have had puts me through a whirlwind of emotions.
“We never got to go on that first date… I never got to experience your arms around me… I never got to tell you how fast I was falling for you…” I whisper, tears welling up in my eyes. “This isn’t how I wanted to meet your family and friends for the first time…”
From what I was told, he was crazy over me; love at first sight. But, now, I’ll never get to hear those words from him. And, he’ll never get to hear how quickly I was falling for him.
Tears stream down my cheeks as I turn and trudge off.
While our time together was short-lived, you left a huge impact on me and I’ll never forget you.