I mentioned yesterday that I’ve received the results from round one of this year’s Flash Fiction Challenge as well as getting my marching (or writing) orders for round two. So with just a little more ado, I give you my entry for round #2:
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Location: A Chocolate Chop
Object: Fried Chicken
Victoria’s Chocolate Bar was in a small, comfortable storefront a few blocks from where I worked. They focused mainly on desserts, but they had freshly made bagels every morning and the sandwich counter did a lunch special that left me groaning with contentment. Victoria was a five foot tall, flame haired woman with a London accent and a glare that could curdle fresh milk. I’d only seen the glare twice. Once when a delivery man had tried to double charge her and once when a patron in a worn out concert T-shirt had asked her if she sold ‘special’ brownies. Both times the glare had been enough to fix the problem. Don’t get me wrong, she never brought out the glare without cause. Vicki was a charming and beautiful woman, at least as long as you didn’t insult her store.
Outside the store and just off the main corner, a half dozen tables sat comfortably against the front of the building. They made a great spot to people watch and a perfect spot to take a date. Or at least I was fairly certain they should be. I’d never had anything but horrible luck there, but I doubted that was because of the tables.
The first really memorable incident came at the table on the far left, about a month after Victoria first opened her shop.
It was Valentine’s day and I’d brought my girlfriend to the bakery for coffee and dessert. The date was going perfectly, but as I leaned in for a kiss she stopped me with a hand on my chest and a tortured look.
“I’m sorry.” She said. “I don’t really know a good way to do this, but I’ve been talking things out with my therapist and I…” She hesitated. “I think I’m going to start transitioning to become a man.”
For the record, I still don’t know what the proper response is to a statement like that, but I was still sitting there an hour after my girlfriend left. When Vicki finally came to check on me I couldn’t do anything but ramble about what had happened. She listened to everything I said without laughing once. I’m not sure I could’ve done the same. I haven’t sat at that table since.
The next table was ruined for me by my date with an emergency room doctor. She was very sweet, but her graphic portrayal of the first time she’d ever reattached someone’s ear had been a bit much for me. Vicki had laughed long and hard when I shared the story, so I guess it had been worth something. Maybe the tables themselves weren’t really to blame, but they did make really easy targets.
The day a woman fled weeping for her ex-husband after I’d innocently mentioned fruit cups was almost the last straw. I sat brooding at the sandwich counter, contemplating my horrible luck and the tables out front. They were full, even this close to the end of October. Vicki’s homemade cocoa was just that good. Even in my wallowing I wanted some.
Vicki leaned on the other side of the counter and watched me until I looked up. Her blue eyes shone even as her frown deepened. The shop actually has a rule against self-pity, which seems to be contagious when you’re surrounded by chocolate. It’s not actually forbidden, you’re just required to use one of the softer chairs in the back corner.
I saw her watching and shook my head. She’d watched too many of my more spectacular dating disasters for me to hide what I was thinking.
“Is it me, Vick?” I asked. “Am I doing something wrong? Are there just that many insane people in the world?”
Normally when I get like this she’d just shrug and point to the pity chairs, but I guess business was slow that day. “Are you sure you know what you really want?” She asked.
“Ugh.” I grunted intellectually. “I just want a normal girl.”
Vicki’s eyes widened and she collapsed in a heap of laughter. Every time she started to relax she’d catch sight of my face and fall apart all over again. “There are no normal women!” She finally choked out between fits. “People don’t come in normal.”
“People are crazy everywhere.” She said when she managed to take a breath. “It’s the ones that seem normal you have to watch out for.”
I was probably just being stubborn, but I didn’t see the humor. “So, what the hell do I do?” I whined. “All I want is a girl I can talk to. Someone I can watch movies and eat chicken nuggets with and not have to worry about impressing her.”
Vicki’s face softened. It was one of the few times I’d seen her completely unguarded. “You start off as friends.” She said and covered my hand in hers. “Sometimes, something special grows.”
My heart started to pound. Was she really saying what I thought she was saying? I wanted to be sure. I wanted to be suave. Instead I blurted out the first thought to stumble through my empty head.
“You want to eat chicken nuggets with me?”
She laughed. “Are ‘chicken nuggets’ those dime sized pieces of fried chicken you Americans eat by the thousand?”
“The original.” I said with a proud nod.
“I’ve never understood American food.”
Before I could decide if that was a rejection she gave my hand a squeeze. “I’d love to try them though.” She smiled and her eyes twinkled at me. “I’ve been wanting you to ask me out since your ex-girlfriend decided to become your ex-boyfriend.”
I laughed as she moved down the bar to cash out a customer. I watched her go, wondering how my luck had changed so suddenly. Wait. I thought as her words sunk in. What kind of a person has never had chicken nuggets?
I guess there really aren’t any normal women.
So there it is Friends and Neighbors: My round two challenge and my first ever attempt at Romantic Comedy. I would love to hear your impressions and suggestions, if you care to share them with me. Thanks for reading.